Saturday, March 20, 2010

Not Working Out

Sorry but my "Periodic Lent" postings have not been working out - the time is too busy for me to get such things written. I do hope your Lent is being spent well, and perhaps in some future time I shall consider other meditations on the elements.

In order to give you at least a little diversion, I would like to present you with a bit of an oddity I have noted about English words.

There are some words with a "short i" which have corresponding words that have a "long i" but require fewer letters to spell:

willed - wild
chilled - child
milled - mild

My question is then why can't we have some other words like these?

dilled - dild (dialled)
filled - fild (filed)
pilled - pild (piled)
tilled - tild (tiled)
stilled - stild (styled)

Of course if you do happen to answer this one, you may see how far you get with that perennial favourite:

If the plural of mouse is mice, shouldn't the plural of house be hice?

Hee hee!


At 30 March, 2010 05:38, Blogger Banshee said...

You've probably studied Old English somewhere, so I probably don't need this comment....

Because Old English plurals depend on noun endings, interior vowels, and what declension they're part of... that's not an answer, really, but it is a description, at least.

You get some -a, some -an, some -es/-as/-s plurals. But some plurals are what they call i-umlaut or ablaut. It probably goes back to older Germanic or even Indo-European stuff.

The weird thing is that "book" was one of those words with an ablaut plural, back in the day. It's in the same group as foot. So if that plural had survived, we'd say: book, beek.

As for mouse, mice and louse, lice -- yes, house sure looked like it was in the same group in Old English. Or you'd think it would be husa, husan; but that was the word for someone of the household. So yeah, mysteriously, people thought a different plural should apply and picked a weird one. (Probably for phonetic reasons before our ken. I'm sure somebody's written papers.) All I know is that Old English hus, huses became Modern English house, houses.

At 17 April, 2010 20:34, Blogger Sheila said...

And the answer to your first question is that the words you list are all past tense verbs -- so they need their -ed. :D


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