When answering queries from non-English language speakers about the oddities of our language, nothing stymies the process more than plural references – particularly when pertaining to animals.
A typical day on the farm, where Mexican workers diligently face work and language issues alike, illustrates all…
Juan: Senora! The sheeps are escaped!
Me (ever helpful): Sheep. The sheep have escaped….without the ‘s’.
Juan: Senora! The pig is loose!
Me: PIGS. The PIGS are loose. WITH the ‘S’.
Juan (less confidently, still stewing about the pigs, apparently): Lady, the running pork got out again.
(Obviously he’s found a way to circumvent the entire ‘S’ question. Sorry dude: won’t work….:)
Me: RUNNING PORKS. WITH the ‘s’. Actually, it’s still PIGS – but I like your description better. Let’s round ‘em up!
Juan: The grain has become full of mouses!
Me (sighing): Mice. The mice have gotten into the grain. No ‘becoming’ involved…
Juan (puzzled): Meece?
Me: No, mice.
Juan (thoroughly confused, and now suspecting a rouse on my part): Why ‘sheeps’ then; why not ‘shice’?
(Apparently, SOMEBODY smelled a rat in this conversation....)
Me (issuing disclaimer): Hey – I didn’t INVENT it … I just USE IT!
Juan (resentfully): Why?? Spanish make MUCH more sense.
Me: I know … hey, did you see the neighbors’ new geese?
Juan (superiorly): GOOSES. Yes, I saw neighbors’ new GOOSES. They got through fence and chased our sheeps. And went after mouses, too. Running porks not afraid, though.
So much for English…hey, if God wanted me to ‘splain English, I’d have been born an English teacher. That’s why I’m a writer. I do much better on paper…
The rural world has enough issues to describe without rampaging sheeps, running porks, gooses, and mousies running off with the English language!