Six mice scared one goose by stepping on it's two feet.
April 22, 2012 7:55 AM   Subscribe

My son has become fascinated with non-standard plurals in English, and I need more examples to feed him. Can you think of more like: Foot --> Feet; Goose --> Geese; Mouse --> Mice. What I'm not looking for is inside:

Examples that I'm not looking for: Examples where only the ending changes, even if it's a big change (ie: bacterium --> bacteria), or examples where the plural is the same as the singular: (Moose --> Moose). Thanks!
posted by anastasiav to Writing & Language (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Octopus, octopi and octopuses.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:00 AM on April 22, 2012

posted by multivalent at 8:00 AM on April 22, 2012

die -> dice
posted by barnoley at 8:01 AM on April 22, 2012

Man/men, woman/women
posted by purpleclover at 8:01 AM on April 22, 2012

posted by spicynuts at 8:01 AM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

louse -> lice
posted by barnoley at 8:02 AM on April 22, 2012

It looks like you've already got most of them. (The list has some categories that you're not interested in, but there are also the ones that you're looking for.
posted by rjs at 8:04 AM on April 22, 2012

In case you were wondering, this phenomenon is called ablaut, in which English forms the plural by changing the vowel sound of the singular.

This kind of change is historically way more common throughout all sorts of English grammar, but linguistic changes have eroded a lot of it.
posted by andrewesque at 8:06 AM on April 22, 2012 [9 favorites]

Octopodes is also also considered a correct plural if I remember correctly.
posted by Quack at 8:06 AM on April 22, 2012

One thing that I find quite cool is that the singular of 'peas' in Old English was 'pease' and the plural was 'peasen'. Process of analogy made it like most other noun plurals though.
posted by Scottie_Bob at 8:19 AM on April 22, 2012

[Hey folks, it's a short question, please read all of it, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:07 AM on April 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Goose pluralizes to Geese but Mongoose pluralizes to Mongooses.
posted by DisreputableDog at 10:05 AM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Brother -> brethren!

(Ok, not quite useful for playground conversation.)
posted by miyabo at 10:55 AM on April 22, 2012

"kine" used to be the plural for "cow"
posted by dhens at 11:04 AM on April 22, 2012

He might like this poem:

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes;
but the plural of ox became 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 spoke 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.

I have heard it many times and found it copied on this page, which has other interesting bits. Another result has parts of the same poem, but done as a fill in the blank exercise. Depending on his age it might be appropriate.
posted by whatzit at 11:11 AM on April 22, 2012 [16 favorites]

I think I first saw that poem whatzit mentions in my cherished copy of "A Children's Almanac of Words at Play" by Willard Espy - which would be a great book for a kid interested in wordplay.
posted by PussKillian at 11:29 AM on April 22, 2012

Along the cow > kine idea, I think swine is the archaic plural of sow (the pig), but I could be wrong.

andrewesque above did a great job explaining why there are irregular plurals (ablaut), but this only applies to words from our native Anglo-Saxon word stock. There are probably far more irregular plurals in loanwords than in "native" words, mainly due to borrowing from Latin and Greek, two very inflected languages. By inflected, I mean the endings on the words change to indicate different grammatical meanings, one of which is number. For example, phenomen-on > phenomen-a (Gk.), dat-um > dat-a (L.), stigm-a > stigm-ata (Gk.), and alga > algae (L.).
posted by huxham at 2:45 PM on April 22, 2012

My understanding is that Greek and Latin borrowings don't necessarily pluralize according to Greek and Latin rules.

Octopi is completely and totally wrong, as fun as it is to say. It really is like saying you have a new pair of beet or that there are five hice on your street.

I'm pretty sure bacteria, data, and media only exist in English because they are formerly technical terms which tend only to be used as plural nouns within the wider culture.

Alga has got to be almost as archaic as pease, outside of certain scientific circles.

Nobody actually says stigmata unless they're talking about Christ's wounds. If you were talking about the various oppressions faced by minority groups, you'd say "stigmas", not "stigmata".
posted by Sara C. at 2:58 PM on April 22, 2012

I got here late, but it's also interesting to note words such as bigfoot--> bigfoots, sabre-tooth--> sabre-tooths, (computer) mouse --> mouses. A bigfoot is not a type of foot and a sabre-tooth is not a type of tooth, so speakers tend to pluralize such words regularly.
posted by null14 at 12:39 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

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