8: The trouble with plural(s)

I recently read an anonymous short poem in The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg (bought as a gift for me on leaving England!) which I feel sums up well our predicament when studying English as either teacher or student:

We’ll begin with a box and the plural is boxes.
But the plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.
Then one fowl is goose, but two are called geese.
Yet the plural of mouse should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a whole lot of mice.
But 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?
The cow in a plural may be cows of kine,
But the plural of vow is vows and not vine.
And I speak of foot and you show me your feet,
But I give you a boot...would a pair be called beet?

The masculine pronouns are he, his and him
But imagine the feminine she, shis and shim!

So our English, I think you’ll all agree
Is the trickiest language you ever did see!


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