OR, DO YOU WEAR BEET ON YOUR FEET OR BOOTS ON YOUR FOOTS?
[Multiple Woes With the English Language]
[Following up on the success of yesterday’s post with Anglophone readers of TGOB, I present more of the contents of the envelope I was given upon volunteering to tutor an international student at Princeton University in English conversation. As was pointed out by one reader yesterday, none of this is funny ha-ha if you’re learning English from a book. On the other hand, it remains funny peculiar (note the two meanings of word “funny”) even if you are a beginner. The following poem about the pitfalls of English plurals was first printed in David Booth’s “Spelling Links: Reflections on Spelling and Its Place in the Curriculum,”Pembroke 1991.]
WHY ENGLISH IS SO HARD
We’ll begin with box, the plural is boxes.
But the plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese.
Yet the plural of mouse is never meese.
You may find a lone mouse, or a whole nest of mice.
But the plural of a house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of a man is always men,
Why shouldn’t the plural of a pan be called pen?
The cow in the plural may be called cows or kine.
But a bow, if repeated, is never called bine;
And the plural of vow is vows, not vine.
If I speak of a foot and you show me two 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?
If the singular’s this, and the plural these,
Should the plural of kiss ever be written kese?
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say mothren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his, and him.
But imagine the feminine, she, shis and shim!
So English, I think you all will agree,
Is the funniest language you ever did see.