The way we talk is strange, isn’t it? I don’t mean our particular accents or twangs; I’m referring to the English language in general. American English, that is.
Think about it. If we have more than one mouse, we have mice. More than one louse is lice. But no realtor ever lists several hice on the market; the listings are for houses. Elizabeth Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor had spouses, not spice. Well, maybe they also had some spice in their lives!
If we see more than one deer, we’ve still seen deer, but drink more than one beer and that’s beers.
A second pan gives us pans, but a second man certainly doesn’t give us mans. Seeing a goose and his pals provides a vision of geese. More than one moose, though, is still moose, not meese.
In a restaurant, we sit in a booth among booths but we don’t chew with our tooths; we use teeth.
What about those words that end with us? Campus becomes campuses, virus becomes viruses, yet the plural of cactus is cacti. So, what about octopus? Apparently that’s a bit more difficult. In fact, there are three choices: octopi, octopuses, and octopodes. At least, that’s what I’m told. I never plan to see more than one at a time anyway.
Pronunciations can be as troubling as plurals. Consider the many common words that have different pronunciations and meanings. Lead and read may each be pronounced two ways – with long e sounds and with short e sounds. Adding to the confusion are led and red.
Look at the word beta. It’s pronounced bay-tuh. Don’t ever go to a store or restaurant, however, and ask for fay-tuh cheese. That’s not the way to say feta. It’s fet-uh.
No doubt, language is interesting and not always easy. As I sit at the computer, typing away, I wonder: If I get a new mouse for my computer, do I have computer mice or computer mouses?
Copyright 2008 - Sherry Shealy Martschink