Sierra vs. Sierras: Not Just Another Tomato, Tomahto
I say tomato you say tomahto. Potato, Potahto. But what about Sierra, Sierras?
The word, "Sierra" is a Spanish word meaning “range of mountains”. Therefore with my understanding, Sierra is already plural and does not to be pluralized with a ‘s’. If one says ‘the Sierras’ it would literally be saying ‘the mountainses’, which I think we can all agree is not a word. I realize I averaged C’s on all my grammar tests in school- but it is not grammar that is dictating the correct way to say The Sierra, it’s the Spanish language!
It’s true that when referring to other mountain ranges the individual name of the mountains is often pluralized. This is true of: the Rockies, the Andes, the Adirondacks, the Catskills, the Cascades…the list could go on. However, if the Sierra were to be consistent with this type of pluralizing, we would have to start calling them, “The Nevadas”, and, in my humble opinion, that just doesn’t make much sense.
If you don’t care for my rationale, maybe you’ll appreciate Ansel Adams’ (see how I had to pluralize Adams- because in Spanish Adams is not already plural). In Adams’ autobiography, the photographer and authority on many-things-Sierra wrote, "the name Sierra is already a plural. To add an s is a linguistic, Californian, and mountaineering sin".
We certainly don’t want to risk mountaineering sins, but if that still doesn’t do it for you, I recommend reading an excerpt from the 1947 Sierra Club Bulletin. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that for many lovers of the Sierra, and for that matter many businesses and organizations, it’ll just be easier to stick with “The Sierras”. That’s fine. So long as you know, it’s just wrong (insert winking emoji here).
In the end, it’s a fun topic to debate (especially when you’re right!). Whatever you call it though, I think we can all agree on one thing: we sure do love being here.