The great outdoors are calling.  What do you think?  Is this statement grammatically incorrect?  I was told that it is.  I disagree.

I received a letter from a listener who claimed that the correct statement should read “the great outdoors is calling.”  Let me start this out by saying, I appreciate the letter and will always love feedback.  Thank you for sending it.

Here is my argument for ‘the great outdoors are calling.’

  1. It can be seen as multiple entities - If we are talking about The Great Outdoors as if it was just one thing, then it would totally make sense that the correct statement would be “The Great Outdoors is calling.” But who says that we are?  If you go outdoors and I go outdoors, we are both outdoors, yet we are in different places.  Wouldn’t that mean that there are multiple “outdoors?”  Therefore the statement should read, “the great outdoors are calling.”
  2. It’s a popular phrase. People say the great outdoors are calling all the time.  Now I know that just because people do it all the time doesn’t make it grammatically correct.  But there are other instances where this happens too.  How about a baseball reference?  In baseball, there’s a popular statistic.  You will often hear announcers talking about R.B.I.’s.  R.B.I. stands for Runs Batted In.  Shouldn’t that read R.’sB.I.?  Nope, it shouldn’t.  Nobody says R.’sB.I.  Why?  Because it’s a popular phrase.
  3. Alliteration is incredibly important when you’re writing for the ear. Writing and speaking are different.  The great outdoors are calling just sounds better.

So, while I’m sorry that you feel as though the English language is being brutalized lately, I think this one might be a case of you saying tomato and me saying tomato.  See, it’s different when it’s in writing than it is when you say it out loud.

Seriously, thank you for the letter.  I promise you that I will do my best to make sure the English language is preserved to the best of my ability.