Yes, Shaniqua. She was a dominatrix. Because, you know, wrestling needs dominatrixs.
—RD Reynolds, Wrestlecrap
Part of what you know when you know a language is how to make your words fit into a grammatical system. This can be fairly simple, as in English (the odd -s here, the odd -ed there) or fairly complex, as in the Russian case system. One thing all systems have in common though, is that they work all the time. For every singular, there is a plural.(Though there are cases where there is neither
.) It might be regular (trope, tropes) or irregular (goose, geese), but you know it's there and you know what it is.
...until you find yourself needing to talk about octopuses...octopus...octopi- no, that's Latin
...octopodes? Ugh, now this is going to bother me all day. note
Sometimes you go for a plural and...there isn't one. Maybe it's an unfamiliar word, maybe you've heard different options and don't know what to pick, maybe language is just screwing with you. Whatever the reason, it feels so overwhelmingly wrong
that you have to stop and talk about it. Almost always derails the conversation at hand, and may be the equivalent of a Logic Bomb
to a Grammar Nazi
Truth in Television
. Related to the phenomenon of "paradigmatic gapping" in Real Life
, where a grammatical form that logically should exist just...doesn't.
Note: This is crucially not a trope used by Funny Foreigners
. It is confusion about a speaker's own language
(and the need to stop and work it out) and usually not caused by ignorance or Book Dumb
(although expect a character beset by Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness
to be immune).
- In Cartographer's Craft, a Harry Potter fanfic by copperbadge, Hermione insists on using "Horcruces" as the plural of "Horcrux" instead of "Horcruxes", to everyone else's chagrin.
- Mystery Men: Captain Amazing comments to Casanova Frankenstein that they have always been each other's greatest "nemisises..nemisi..." (It's "nemeses".)
- In Good Omens, Shadwell's instructions to Newt are to search for:
2. Unexplainable Phenomenons. Phenomenatrices. Phenomenice. Things, ye ken well what I mean.
- Since the climax of The Pyrates occurs at the aptly-named Octopus Rock, the inevitable confusion ensues. Antihero Colonel Blood uses the incorrect Latinate plural "octopi," and smarmy hero Captain Avery offers him the correct (though antiquated) Greek "octopods" or "octopodes." Largely out of contrariness, Blood elects to go with "octopussies."
- The Brady Bunch: The B Plot of the episode "The Personality Kid" concerns Bobby & Cindy going ape-shit over safety. The following concerns some electrical outlets in the kitchen, which have so many extensions & multi-prongs plugged in that one is referred to as an "octopus."
Bobby hands Carol a new plug
Carol: Now I hope these are the right plugs.
Bobby: Just the kind the teacher said to get instead of that old octopus.
Alice: Do you know that all last night I dreamed about octopuses?...Octopussys?...Octopi?
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Riley comments that, after falling in with the main characters, he suddenly finds himself needing to know the plural of "apocalypse". (It's "apocalypses", by the way).
- In another episode the Trio kept stumbling over the plural of "nemesis." Became a Brick Joke when a vampire the next season said it was "nemeses," which Buffy noted.
- The girls of iCarly spend a fairly large amount of "iGo to Japan" arguing of the current plural of the word "possum".
- There is a variant of this in Arrested Development (subverted maybe?). GOB is dense enough that he think he can avoid using an "S" by switching to a different plural noun. GOB has just chipped a tooth and is now whistling his S's:
GOB: I have a few terms(whistle)... I mean conditions(whistle)... I have one term and one condition.
- In the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids episode "From Honey, with Love", the family briefly gets into an argument over the correct plural of "moose". Nick produces the correct answer: "The plural of 'moose' is 'moose'. Like 'sheep', or 'deer'."
- Used in the Novelty Song "I Want a Hippopotomus for Christmas."
I want a hippopotamus for Christmas
Only a hippopotamus will do
No crocodiles or rhinoceroseses
I only like hippopotamuseses
And hippopotamuses like me too!
- The Allan Sherman song "One Hippopotami" (a parody of "What Kind Of Fool Am I?") is half this trope and half "pair" puns.
One hippopotami cannot get on a bus
Because one hippopotami is two hippopotamus
And if you have two goose, that makes one geese
A pair of mouse is mice, a pair of moose is meese
- The Tyranids in Warhammer 40,000 have the Carnifex. Good luck getting the fans to agree on a plural.
- ...Bad news?
- The plural of "codex" (the name for a faction army book) is another one. Although "codexes" is used officially, many prefer the correct Latin form "codices" (and, likewise, will use "carnifices" to pluralise carnifex, also correct Latin). Given that many things in 40k get pseudo-Latin names that don't abide by traditional Latin grammatical rules, this might actually be less appropriate.
- In Magic: The Gathering, a powerful mana-generating card is the Mox (Mox Ruby, Mox Sapphire, and so forth). Traditionally, the plural is "Moxen".
- Kingdom of Loathing tends to have a lot of fun with plurals, with "box" becoming "boxen", "kiwi" becoming "kiwus", "fruit basket" becoming "fruits basket", and "liar's pants" becoming "liar's pantses, precious".
- Nobody in the Freespace fandom is sure what the plural of "Sathanas" is supposed to be (given that it's an ancient name for Satan, it probably doesn't have one). The game itself avoids the issue by always referring to that ship class as a "Sathanas juggernaut".
- In one episode of Kim Possible Drakken builds a machine that drains a lake, and he comments on the machine not filtering out all the "fishes". This launches an argument between him and Shego about what the plural of fish is. Shego tells him that both fishes and fish are correct plurals for the word.
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Greece Lightning", the narrator of an educational filmstrip is unsure how to refer to platypi. Platypuses. Platypeople?
- In Teen Titans, Control Freak, like some of the examples before, gets stuck on the plural for "nemesis".
- Principal Skinner at one point refers to "hypothetical dogs and poni."
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic took a while to commit to a standard plural form of "pegasus", initially copping out and using "pegasus ponies" before settling on "pegasi". In "Hearth's Warming Eve", Chancellor Puddinghead, as played by Pinkie Pie in the Hearth's Warming Eve pageant, gets confused and calls them "pegasus-es-es."
- Some Russian jokes deal with the unpredictable nature of Russian plural nouns. An example from Wikipedia:
The genitive plural of a noun (used with a numeral to indicate five or more of something, as opposed to the dual, used for two, three, or four, see Russian nouns) is a rather unpredictable form of the Russian noun, and there are a handful of words which even native speakers have trouble producing this form of (either due to rarity or an actual lexical gap). A common example of this is kocherga (fireplace poker). The joke is set in a Soviet factory. Five pokers are to be requisitioned. The correct forms are acquired, but as they are being filled out, a debate arises: what is the genitive plural of kocherga? Is it Kocherg? Kocherieg? Kochergov?... One thing is clear: a form with the wrong genitive plural of kocherga will bring disaster from the typically-pedantic bureaucrats. Finally, an old janitor overhears the commotion, and tells them to send in two separate requisitions: one for two kochergi and another for three kochergi. In some versions, they send in a request for 4 kochergi and one extra to find out the correct word, only to receive back "here are your 4 kochergi and one extra."
- There's an old Italian joke where a man doesn't know if the plural for "Belga" (a person from Belgium) is "Belghi" or "Belgi". He eventually resorts to write down "Un Belga. Anzi due!" (One Belgian. I mean, two.)
- Brian Regan has an entire routine built around this trope. It starts with "boxen" (like oxen) of donuts and just snowballs from there.
- There's a joke about someone shipping a pair of mongooses to a zoo and being unsure of what the plural of "mongoose" is. They start out writing a note referring them to "mongooses", then try "mongeese", and eventually resort to writing "Enclosed is the mongoose you ordered. Also enclosed is the other mongoose you ordered".
- Hacker jargon plays with this a lot; one of the more prominent examples is the old Digital VAX minicomputer. Although not completely universal, the plural VAXen is common.
- Weetabix. Is the plural Weetabix or Weetabices?
Incidentally: Octopodes. It's from the Greek.