Cannon v Cannons
From Bro John of Lodge Devotion (A "cannon" at a table lodge refers to a glass)
At our Table Lodge meeting on Saturday 17th June, 2017, one of our number, as part of his charge, informed the Worshipful Master that “cannons” were aligned. This was immediately seized upon by the author as being blatantly incorrect as cannon is plural in itself.
This raised a short discussion as to the correct term for multiple cannon.
The use of the word cannon/cannons in either form is less frequent these days as we seldom, if ever, use these weapons and have not done so for the best part of a century. We now refer to the ordinance which replaced cannon as being mortars or guns (the latter having rifling in the barrel).
In justifying the use of cannon in the plural sense it is interesting to note that ships of the line in sailing days were equipped with a specific number of cannon – not cannons. Also ships, infantry etc. were subject to cannon fire, surely not referring to the threat of one pierce of artillery.
Of this great truth, a noble example can be found in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s epic poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” in which there were “cannon to the left of them, cannon to the right of them, cannon in front of them volleyed and thundered.”
William Shakespeare in his play “King John” uses the sentence “The cannon have their bowels full of wrath and ready mounted are they to spit forth their iron indignation ‘gainst your walls.” Napoleon Bonaparte, also, is credited as saying - “If they want peace, nations should avoid the pin-pricks that precede cannon shots.”
It is clear in each of the above examples that cannon is used in the plural sense.
While I acknowledge that “cannons” has crept into usage in a similar way to the dropping of the letter “u” in such words as colour, harbour etc., I believe that one should resist the trend toward the bastardisation of our beautiful language.