I saw "The Soloist" this weekend.
In it, Robert Downey Jr., who plays Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, narrates a few excerpts from his columns in progress. In one, the Lopez character talked about Los Angeles' Skid Row, where the homeless former Julliard student Nathaniel Ayers was living. Lopez/Downey said Skid Row was home to "rats the size of meatloafs."
Or, at least, that's what I thought I heard.
I checked the Times archives. But Lopez has never mentioned meatloaf and rats in the same column. (I guess he doesn't eat at Denny's.) So the supposed column excerpt was probably added by a screenwriter.
The idea of a plural "meatloaf" interests me. The word is usually treated as a mass noun. (As opposed to a count noun. Think "milk" as opposed to "marbles.") But must it be? Can we have our meatloaf and count our meatloaves/fs, too?
Neither Webster's New World College Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Online, American Heritage via Dictionary.com nor Dictionary.com's own entry offers a plural form or any discussion of whether "meatloaf" can be a count noun.
Dictionaries usually volunteer spellings of irregular plurals. For example, under "loaf" Webster's includes: "pl. loaves." So we can only assume that the dictionaries aren't down with "meatloaf" as a count noun.
That leaves us to wonder: Just how big is a rat the size of "meatloaf" and would it, therefore, have a guitar and a bit part in the "Rocky Horror Picture Show"?
That'd be one rat out of Hell.
(I know. The musician's name is two words. Still, I couldn't resist.)