With examples from Once Upon a Time
I will be one of the first people to admit to hating non-standard or irregular plurals. It's partially because I hate having to remember some of the more obscure ones, and partially because I hate it when people don't use them correctly. Kind of a contradiction in terms there, I admit.
So let's first look at the difference between standard and non-standard plurals.
A standard plural is one where you can simply add an -s, -es, or -ies to the end of the word to create your plural.
- Standard plurals that require an -s.
These are the easiest of the plurals to work with. All you do is add an -s to the end of the word.
Examples: paper, word, antique, secret
- Standard plurals that require an -es.
There are specific word endings that will require the -es instead of -s to make them plural: -s, -z, -x, -sh, -ch, and sometimes -o
Examples: hero, watch
- Standard plurals ending in -ies.
In the case of most words ending in a -y, you would add -ies to make a standard plural. For the irregular -y word plurals, see the next section.
Examples: story, fairy, worry
Regina stares at the papers in front of her, but the words make no sense at all.
Mr. Gold is glad that no one seems to take a close look at the antiques in his shop. He certainly doesn't want anyone figuring out his secrets.
The watches in Mr. Gold's antique shop hold a special interest for Henry; they never seem to change their time at all.
Henry's book contains many stories about witches, fairies, heroes, and heroines, all of them people he knows in Storybrooke.
Conversely, non-standard plurals are words that require more specialized circumstances to become plural. Most of the words in this category are there because of the varied sources of those words. As we all probably know by now, the English language is as much a melting pot as the United States. There are words in the English language derived from a multitude of other languages, and with them come the varied rules for pluralizing them. Today, we'll look at six of the more common types of irregular plurals: words ending in -y that don't follow the -ies plural rule, identical singular/plural nouns, words ending in -us, irregular Old English plurals, umlaut/mutated plurals, and plurals from Latin and Greek.
- Words ending in -y that don't follow the -ies plural rule.
If a word that ends in -y is preceded by a vowel, the plural is made by simply adding -s to the end.
Examples: day, donkey, monkey
Henry counted down the days until Regina would let him see Emma again.
Emma surprised Henry with her favorite childhood game: Barrel of Monkeys.
Regina preferred dealing with the sleek, majestic horses over the dirty, common donkeys.
- Both singular and plural forms are identical.
There are some words from non-American English languages that have the singular and plural as the same word, but Americans have added an -s to pluralize the word. A prime example here that I hadn't known about is that those of us in the US who use "Legos" to pluralize "Lego" are actually incorrect. The same goes for words like "ninja" and "kimono", all of which are the same for both singular and plural throughout the rest of the world. These words are also places where the more common American English usage may actually override the correct usage in time.
Examples: deer, sheep, fish, moose, swine, lego, kimono, ninja
The deer stood there, three sets of eyes following Henry's every move.
Ruby stared into the river, mesmerized the rainbow-colored scales of the many fish.
Note: You can also use fishes here and be equally correct.
Regina smiled as Henry played with his Lego, even if it meant a huge mess she'd have to clean up later on.
- Words ending in -us.
For the most part, words ending in -us will be pluralized by either adding either -i or -era. In some cases, they can be pluralized by adding -es.
A quick note here on words like octopus and platypus. Both are bastardized Latinizations of Greek words, so using octopi and platypi, while commonly known, is actually incorrect. These words should be pluralized as either octopuses/platypuses or the rarer forms of octopodes/platypodes.
Examples: octopus [octopuses/octopodes], focus [foci], uterus [uteruses/uteri], genus [genera]
Mary Margaret loved teaching the children about octopuses, even though some of the parents tried to correct her and say it was supposed to be pronounced octopi.
It was a long afternoon of Emma quizzing Henry over various plant genera over cups of hot cocoa.
"We may both be Henry's mothers, but that doesn't mean both of our uteri were involved in bringing him into this world," Emma said with a low growl.
It is also acceptable to use uteruses here.
- Irregular Old English plurals.
For the most part, these are regional, dialectal, or rare Old English plurals created by adding an -n or -en to the root word, but some are relatively common words used in the English language. Words here include oxen, brethren, and children. In fact, most of the words here have more common plurals that tend to be used more often, but these forms can be used still.
There is the theory that sister can be pluralized as sistern, spinning off the Old English plural of brother, but there has been no definitive proof that this is correct.
Examples: ox, brother, child
Sister Mary Grace reminded Mary Margaret that the brethren made the wine, not the nuns.
Note: You can also use brothers here, which is the more common usage.
It never ceased to amaze Emma just how good Mary Margaret could be with small children.
Ruby always wondered why she was so intrigued by the oxen in the little town petting zoo.
- Mutated, or umlaut, plurals.
This is where most of the confusion occurs in the irregular plurals from what I've seen. These plurals are created by changing the vowel sound from the singular to the plural.
Examples: mouse, goose, foot, man, louse
Ashley never understood why she had such an affinity with the wild mice around Storybrooke.
"What's good for one goose isn't always best for all of the geese, Sheriff," Regina said with a smirk.
"No one ever leaves Storybrooke, Emma," Henry said. "Not in cars, or on bikes, or on their own two feet."
- Irregular plurals from Latin and Greek.
There can be contextual considerations with these irregular plurals that can sometimes allow for a standard -s/-es ending to be added to the word.
Examples: appendices/appendixes, formulae/formulas, indices/indexes, crises
Emma spent hours in the library, poring over the indices and appendices of the town's historical volumes.
Some days, Regina wondered how the people of Storybrooke would handle their various crises without her benevolent assistance.
There are a lot of ways to work with non-standard plurals. The best ways that I can see to deal with them are either to have a good dictionary on hand to verify a word's plural form or memorize the more common ones that you use. I've done both, but the dictionary is particularly handy on some of the more obscure foreign language-derived non-standard plurals.
One last point before we conclude. Plural words aren't possessive. They don't have an apostrophe before the s.
And now, we'll finish out this look at non-standard plurals with a fun little poem I found on the About.com plural page.
The English Lesson (author unknown)
Now if mouse in the plural should be, and is, mice,
Then house in the plural, of course, should be hice,
And grouse should be grice and spouse should be spice
And by the same token should blouse become blice.
And consider the goose with its plural of geese;
Then a double caboose should be called a cabeese,
And noose should be neese and moose should be meese
And if mama's papoose should be twins, it's papeese.
Then if one thing is that, while some more is called those,
Then more than one hat, I assume, would be hose,
And gnat would be gnose and pat would be pose,
And likewise the plural of rat would be rose.
- English plural @ Wikipedia
- plural @ About.com
- English plural @ TheSuperClick
- Is "Data" Singular or Plural? @ Grammar Girl