Weird Plurals

What are some plurals that don’t fit the norm. I was reading a book about mongooses and now is that right. It can’t be mongeese can it?

What about Octopus (Octopi?)
What about fish (fish or fishes?)

Anybody know of other weird and unusual plurals?

Deer, doesn’t change a bit.
Now that I think about it, how many others don’t change at all when plural?

Mongooses is correct. This is because the word originates from the the Hindi mangus (sp?). Its name has nothing to do with geese and the “goose” ending is just a corruption of the original word.

BTW, My Websters says the following:

mongooses or mongeese
octopi or octopuses
hippopotomi or hippopotomuses

I think they’re waffling.

Carpe hoc!

Waffles or Waffli?

Abstainer: a weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure.
- Ambrose Bierce

Moose or Mooses?

Mouse / Mice
Louse / Lice (I’ve heard thoses louses too, but I think that is like the mongoose / goose analogy)

Moose or Mooses?

Mouse / Mice
Louse / Lice (I’ve heard thoses
louses too, but I think that is like
the mongoose / goose analogy)




In Old English, words had various ways of making plurals. Over time, the addition of s became standard.

The plural of one species of fish is fish. The plural of a group of different fish together is fishes.

This is similar to the cacti, and cactuses pluralization. All of one species would be Cacti, several differnt types would be cactuses.


Ganglion - Ganglia

cow - kine

Admittedly archaic, but I once read that this was the only plural that didn’t share any letters with its singular form.

“non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem”
– William of Ockham

I insist that if the plural of “goose” is “geese”, then the plural of “moose” should be “meese”, and the singular of “sheep” should be “shoop”.

person - people

“non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem”
– William of Ockham

BTW, the proper plural of “octopus” is “octopuses.” The “octopi” plural is of relatively recent vintage, probably as a result of its appearing to be a Latin word, where “-us” often becomes “-i” in plurals. It’s actually a Greek word, originally spelled “oktopous,” and the proper Greek plural then becomes (after Anglicization) “octopodes.”

I read that there is a rule (or guideline) for making plurals of words that look like other words.

The plural of “mongoose” is “mongooses”, because a mongoose isn’t a kind of goose, so it takes the “standard” (English) add-an-s plural.

However, the plural of “canadian goose” is “canadian geese”, because a canadian goose is a kind of goose, so it takes the orignial “geese” plural.

I think I read this in Steven Pinker’s book The Language Instinct. I’ll look it up over the weekend.

The Cat In The Hat

Mjoll beat me to it, but octopus actually has three (count 'em, three) dictionary-approved plurals: octopuses, octopi, and octopodes (pronounced with four syllables – oc-top-oh-dees).

Other fun plurals:

mother-in-law : mothers-in-law
attorney general : attorneys general
datum : data (Yes, data is plural… proper grammar is to say that the data ARE, not the data IS.)

In ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’, ‘louses’ is used to rhyme with ‘spouses’. (But first, those lice hooked up with their spice.)

The kicker for me is ‘Pokemon’ being its own plural. How is it that a newly fabricated word winds up with an archiac pluralization?

Octopodes? Thank you, Mjollnir and CKDextHaven! I think this is the most amusing word I’ve ever heard, and my new favorite. Just sort of rolls off the old tongue. I can’t wait for the next occasion on which I feel the need to be pretentious so I can haul that baby out of storage.
Daniel Moore: For what it’s worth, I heard on TV last night that Pokemon is an abbreviation for Pocket Monsters.

“I think it would be a great idea” Mohandas Ghandi’s answer when asked what he thought of Western civilization

Medium/media is one of my faves, especially when people use them in the wrong context. Plurals ending in “a” always confuse people, because they just sound singular.

Daniel Moore posted:

Chalk that one up to poetic license. As in “I hate meeses to pieces!”. (Does anyone remember Jinks, the cat?)

Louse/lice is an irregular plural just like mouse/mice because both words come from Old English where plurals were formed by shifting vowels (man/men, foot/feet) rather than adding an ‘s’. Note that it is generally only very common words that survive in irregular forms and be grateful that lice are relatively uncommon today.

Another old plural form is adding an ‘n’ as in child/children, ox/oxen, cow/kine. Fewer of those have survived. Does anyone have any other examples?

The cactus/cacti thing is, of course, what happens when you borrow foreign words (how about beau/beaux?). The confusion generally comes when the word is used so much that its foreign origin is forgotten and speakers apply the usual English endings.

I didn’t know that about octopus/octopi. But then again, it was only a couple of weeks ago I realized memento was spelled with me- instead of mo-. I thought it was something to remind you of the “moment”. My wife doesn’t get to laugh at me very often, but she really enjoyed that one.

“non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem”
– William of Ockham

BTW, CatInHat, those honking birds are Canada geese, not Canadian geese. Go figure.

Memorandum - memoranda
graffito - graffiti

~ Complacency is far more dangerous than outrage ~