Is it octopuses or octopi? What about mongooses? Are they mongeese?

Sure, you can use plural –s, but do you know your way around the unusual plurals of English?

Have no fear — linguist Daniel Midgley takes you through the ins and outs on this episode of Talk the Talk.


Listen to this episode

Or subscribe via iTunes
Click here for more options: How to listen to Talk the Talk


Promo with James Hall


Show notes

Cambridge is leaving apostrophes out of new street names
http://www.ndtv.com/article/offbeat/apostrophes-now-britain-at-war-over-missing-punctuation-499805

Grammar pedants are pissed
http://metro.co.uk/2014/02/02/cambridge-irresponsible-for-dropping-apostrophes-from-new-road-signs-4287467/

Sometimes the apostrophe can convey information about history, as in “Queens’ College”
http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/News/Apostrophe-catastrophe-as-Cambridge-City-Council-bans-punctuation-from-new-street-names-20140117060000.htm

Plural -s comes from Old English
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=-s&allowed_in_frame=0

More about Old English nouns
https://www.wmich.edu/medieval/resources/IOE/inflnoun.html

But -n forms were popular too, and some have persisted.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_plurals#Plurals_in_-.28e.29n

The plural for ‘man’ underwent i-mutation.
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=man

What’s i-mutation?
http://www.etymonline.com/imutate.php

And how about those -us forms?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plural_form_of_words_ending_in_-us

Not everything that ends in -us pluralises as -i.
http://alt-usage-english.org/excerpts/fxplural.html

There are second declension masculine nouns that end in -us
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:Latin_second_declension#Masculine

but there are also third declension neuter nouns, also ending in -us.
http://latin-dictionary.net/grammar/nouns/declensions/third-declension

Cactus is cacti though.
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=cactus

Octopus isn’t Latin really.
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=octopus

Octopuses is the most popular.

Toyota wants the plural of Prius to be Prii. They had a vote.
http://www.engadget.com/2011/02/21/toyota-decrees-the-plural-of-prius-is-prii-your-latin-teach/

Here’s a big ol’ list of plural forms
http://www.writers.com/tips_spelling.html

Here’s another.
http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/39_plural_forms_that_might_confuse_writers_10648.aspx#

‘Selfie’ is semantically mutating
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/selfies-there-are-groupies-ussies-shelfies-and-even-sealfies–but-selfobsessed-portraiture-isnt-just-a-modern-phenomenon-9234004.html


Show tunes

‘Stars Are Stars’ by Echo and the Bunnymen
from the album Seven Seas / Life at Brian’s (EP)

‘Outlines and Colours’ by Runner
from the album RTRfm In the Pines 20th Anniversary