Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The English Plural

The English Plural according to ...

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

Let's face it - English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
Neither apple nor pine in pineapple. 
English muffins weren't invented in England.

We take English  for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,
We find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square,
And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write, but fingers don't fing,
Grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?

Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend?
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them,
What do you call it?

We ship by truck but send cargo by ship...
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
While a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
In which your house can burn up as it burns down,
In which you fill in a form by filling it out,
And in which an alarm goes off by going on.

And in closing..........

If Father is Pop, how come Mother's not Mop.????


Anonymous said...

Very clever... and true.

I've taught French in Scotland and English in France and English is far more complex and irregular... and so difficult to explain.

Independent England said...

English may be complex but it is relatively easy to understand someone who speaks it badly. So a French person who speaks with a strong French accent and makes many mistakes will likely be understood.
Compare this with French where even the slightest error or misprounciation by a non French person speaking French is met with baffled confusion.
That's my experience.

Independent England said...

I'm always amused when people say 'I'm going up the garden'. They could quite easily say 'I'm going down the garden' which is equally amusing.

Joe Public said...

It's real objective is as the "English Test" for prospective immigrants.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, Independent England, it's not my experience at all. Of course there are words in French that change meaning dependent upon their gender... 'la livre' and 'le livre' for example, have entirely different meanings, so I suppose you can ask for "a book of tomatoes" (which for some reason seem always to be sold in pounds) or a "pound by Agatha Christie". (The two meanings being "pound" (fem) and "book" (masc).

But even when my French was relatively poor I found that I was understood and people were pleased that I had made the effort. Less so in Paris I admit, but then capital cities always seem to breed some people whose job it is to be unpleasant. Edinburgh is the same.

I agree with you on 'up' and 'down'... One always goes 'up' to Oxford, never down.

I also love the "on" in "on the television"... and my favourite is... "Now then". Hmmmmm

Joe Public said...

In a similar vein:-

The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full it had to refuse more refuse.
We must polish the Polish furniture.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
Since there was no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
I did not object to the object.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
There was a row among the oarsmen on how to row.
They were too close to the door to close it.
The buck does funny things when does are present.
A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
After a number of injections my jaw got number.
Upon seeing the tear in the painting, I shed a tear.
I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Brian said...

The inconsistency of English is due to it being a living language that continues to incorporate words from other languages whose grammars differ. Latin is meant to be a logical, consistent language, and for the most part it is, but there are many exceptions to catch out the unwary. Perhaps the main reason why words can be inconsistent is how convenient they are to say because 97% of communication is vocal.

subrosa said...

It is difficult to explain Tris. The problem with most European languages is the gender though. These can cause some misunderstandings too.

subrosa said...

My one is going 'up' to London Independent England. I always think about it going 'down' ie south.

subrosa said...

Wonderful Joe. Many thanks indeed. Hadn't heard that one.

subrosa said...

97% Brian? That surprised me when I first read it but it will be right.

I was about to say the figure will go higher with the refinement of computer aided voice software, but because of the inconsistencies in our language, that software hasn't improved much over the years.

Anonymous said...

House can be hice in a Sandhurst accent....

subrosa said...

What's a Sandhurst accent Rightwinggit? I don't think elocution lessons are compulsory there any more. :)

Anonymous said...

Posh officers, normally called Rupert or Rodney..

"Oh, hello" is pronounced; "air hair lair"

subrosa said...

You won't believe this Rightwinggit, but Scottish accents can occasionally be heard in Sandhurst these days. Not all recruits come from the 'upper' classes as they did for generations.

So the odd "Hi" can be heard as well as "cheerio".

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