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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gooses, meese, and mongeese

The plural of goose is geese. A girl goose is a goose. A boy goose is a gander.
The name comes from the Proto-Indo-European root word ghans. I'm going to cut and paste a paragraph about the name origin directly from Wikipedia because it's a neat example of a commonality between bunch of exceptionally disparate languages. I often have a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that all these languages can be related, and this example helps:
In Germanic languages, the root gave Old English gōs with the plural gēs and gandra (becoming Modern English goosegeese, and gander, respectively), New High German GansGänse, and Ganter and Old Norse gās. This term also gave Lithuanian žąsìs, Irish  (swan, from Old Irish géiss), Latin anser, Greek chēn, Albanian gatë (heron), Sanskrit hamsá, Avestan zāō, Polish gęś, Russian гусь, Czech husa, Slovak hus, and Persian ghāz.
Right? Holy bananas. Geese are foul-tempered things (pun only sort of intended) that would, I assure you, bite your eyes out given the opportunity. My high school had lots of them, and during hatching season, things could get ugly. "Geese in my way" was a legit excuse for being late to class. Except when you used it every day.

The plural of moose is moose. A boy moose is a bull and a girl moose is a cow. Which is silly, because everyone knows a cow is a cow and not a moose. Side by side comparison. C'mon. The scientific name for moose is Alces alces, from the Latin for Elk. Because in England, moose are elk and elk are... something else. I don't know what name the English have for the thing we call an elk, but given that Elk are native to a small part of the US and Asia, far away from England, I suppose it's possible the English have never heard of elk. Unlikely, but possible. Come to think of it, I don't know what name the English have for what we call pudding. Maybe they've never heard of pudding.
Moose is a native American word, meaning moose.

Holy crap, these things are cute. Don't you just want to take the little guy home? I bet he'd cuddle with you all night, and then take care of your snake problem. Because they're awesome like that. Way better than stupid cats that puke on everything you love and wake you up in the morning by biting your elbows. *Glares at sleeping cat. Then bites sleeping cat's elbow.*
The plural of mongoose is mongooses. I'm not sure what a boy mongoose is called, although more than one online resource claims that girl mongooses are called teriyaki biscuit. Let's have a hand for the Internet.
There are actually 30 some species of critters called mongooses, all members of the family herpestidae, which sounds like a disease I recently had. Mongoose comes from an Indian word, mangus, and is etymologically unrelated to goose. Say etymologically out loud. You'll thank me later.


Anonymous said...

I was attacked by geese when I was a kid. I was feeding one pieces from a slice of bread, and the rest decided they wanted in. They started on my hands when there was no bread. Still have little scar pecks on my hands from the ordeal. Fucking animals.

Query: If you goose more than one person at a time, do I pluralize "goose?"

Anonymous said...

Mongooses fight snakes because *fuck snakes*.

BTW geese are very nasty. In southern parts of China, they are actually used instead of guard dogs.

The Vegetable Assassin said...

Pudding is "pudding" in the UK same as the US. It's just that every OTHER dessert is also "pudding". :) If someone asks if you want "pudding", they mean dessert. Which may or may not be pudding. See?

I have no answer on the moose/elk thing though.

Anonymous said...

That's like it is here in Georgia with "coke." Go to a restaurant, they'll ask what you want to drink, you say "Coke," and they ask you what kind because coke=soda/cola/pop. You couldn't possibly just mean "Bring me a Coke" could you?

And as I sit here, I'm listening to Denis Leary sing his song "Douchebag," and I wonder if that word is the same all over the word?

Brigid Daull Brockway said...

Isn't pudding also some kind of gooified meat?

I doubt douchebag means the same thing in France - douche is French for shower. Showerbag isn't much of an insult.

Things to Do said...

A gaggle of geese is the only collective animal noun I can ever remember. I think it is the alliteration.

And I never knew mongooses were so cute!

Anonymous said...

Somehow I missed this article when it was current which is sad since it covers one of my favorite English nonsenses. I like following the rules consistently when I "plural" things and thus insist on things like that more than on Jesus is a Jesii and one Jewish holy man is a Rabbi, but more than that and they are Rabus (etc.)

As to the pudding thing, across the pond it doesn't have much of a narrowly defined meaning. It was actually we Americans that screwed it up, rather than the other way around. To most of us, pudding is that instant stuff we mix cold milk with and leave sit in the fridge. If you think about the "fancy" kind you have to cook on the stove, that's a bit closer. Really, what we call pudding is just a specific type of custard.
Also, I think in your comment you are referring to Yorkshire pudding (usually served with roast beef). It's not actually gooey at all, nor is it at all what we would think of as pudding. It's a batter that you put in a pan underneath the roasting meat in the oven. As the hot grease drips down into it, it fries the batter. It's kind of tricky to get just right, but it should come out flaky and light and several inches high. I made it once and it's fantastic (so Charles said).