Sunday, June 13, 2010

English weirdness - plurals

I quite often get into discussions about the weirdness of English. Things like "fluff" rhyming with "enough" and "threw" rhyming with "through", "taut" and "thought" etc...

Other oddities are words that can't possibly be pronounced without context. Examples:
1. minute
2. tear
3. bass
4. sewer

I got into a similar discussion on the weekend. This time, it was English plurals. Because English is a mish-mash of different languages, happy to borrow from almost any other language ("English is to language what Microsoft is to computing" from "Xenophobe's guide to the English"), it has lots of ways of pluralizing words. I claimed that there are at least a dozen ways of pluralizing in English. The smart (smart-ass?) people I was with said, "Oh? That sounds like a lot. Come on then, give them to us." Another request was for me to have all the examples on my blog - so, this is it. NOTE: There are possibly even more than a dozen here, but I quite often group them together.

straight s:
1. car->cars

2. dish->dishes

3. cherry->cherries

irregulars - I will count them as 1
4. dwarf->dwarves , hoof->hooves, similarly rooves, leaves, elves

5. deer, moose, fish etc.. (some odder ones are species and series which don't change either)
6. ox, brother, child-> oxen, brethren, children
7. foot->feet, goose->geese, similarly teeth, mice, lice, men, women etc...
8. formula->formulae, indices, matrices, vertices
9. axis->axes, crisis->crises
10. criterion->criteria, phenomenon->phenomena
11. datum->data (similarly media, medium, millennia, memoranda)

Some other odd ones out:
12. alumni, cacti, fungi

even more odd
13. beau->beaux, or bureaux, chateaux

So there you go Ed. ;-)


Kerryn Angell said...

That's a great list, Travis. It's really interesting to see them all summarised like that. Endless entertainment from the English language. :)

Determinist said...

Thanks Kerryn - I love looking into language. Of course, I know very little about other languages, so pretty much have to look at English.

I don't think most people understand how weird it actually is.

Of course, all languages are weird, because people are weird.

I had a similar thought on the weekend about culture when I was at the Willis Street market in town where there are SO many cultures represented. There are some cultural bits and pieces that are so strange and for no other reason than it's always been that way. There may be some history, but the history does nothing to convince someone of the correctness of their own culture.