I’m sure most people will know this – but I thought it might be fun to post it here!

We’ll begin with 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 moose 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 pen?

The cow in the plural may be cows or kine,
But the plural of vow is vows, not vine.
And I speak of a foot, and you show me your feet,
But I give a boot… would a pair be beet?

If one is a tooth, and a whole set is teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be beeth?
If the singular is this, and the plural is these,
Why shouldn’t the plural of kiss be kese?

Then one may be that, and three be those,
Yet the plural of hat would never be hose.
We speak of a brother, and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.

The masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine she, shis, and shim.
So our English, I think you will agree,
Is the trickiest language you ever did see.

How many other oddities in spelling can you find?

22 thoughts on “English”

  1. It was, I am reminded, Soutie who jokingly complained about the alternative pronunciations of ‘read’

    • [reed] in the present tense, but [red] in the past tense.

    This is but one of many English heteronymic homographs. This group also includes the following words, which I am given to understand are all inherited from Anglo-Saxon –

    • wind – moving air [wih-nd] and tension a spring [why-nd]
    • wound – a tensioned spring [wow-nd] and an injury [woo-nd]
    • tear – moisture from the eye [teere] and rip up paper [tare]
    • sow – a female pig [s-ow] and scatter grain [s-oh]
    • row – an argument [r-ow] and things in line [r-oh]
    • lead – guide from in front [leed] and a metal [led]

    And here’s my favourite example of an ending with different pronunciations –

    Though the tough cough and hiccough plough me through.

    where we have -ough representing [oh], [uff], [off], [up], [ow] and [oo] 😀

  2. The one who won cannot polish the Polish furniture. Could the one who won lead, even after he was hit by a lead weight after a long wait? A further question, if one wishes to answer, should mates mate? Or should one, shoo a fly with a shoe?

  3. Sorry .. my “ESL” prevents me from joining in, I have enough trouble thinking in English let alone writing it and all these nouns, pronouns and verbs tend to leave me slightly confused. 😦

    But here is one in Spanish for you to translate.

    “La lluvia en Espana nunca cae en las Montanas” 🙂

  4. Hello Boadicea

    I enjoyed this, never heard (herd :)) of kine before so I looked it up. I’ll probably forget it by tomorrow but such is life.

    For the sake of accuracy it was I who brought up the red / read issue (on Janus’ ‘Gilmour‘ post) 😉

  5. Bearsy :

    Donald – nah mate, the rine in Spine falls minely on the pline.

    Find me a single plain in Spain and I will agree with you; the place in nothing but mountains, donkeys and chorizos 😦

  6. It’s a quotation, in Essex dialect, from the musical “My Fair Lady”, an adaptation of Pygmalion by GBS – not to be taken seriously. 🙂

  7. I hadn’t come across your poem before, Boadicea, but English is a very awkward language to teach to foreigners.

  8. But the plural of house is houses, not hice.

    Unless you are Prince Charles, in which case hice is the singular of house! 🙂

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