Tuesday, July 24, 2007

An Irrelevant Dilemma and an Irrelevant Linguistic Mystery

This post really doesn't have anything to do with sex-ed in Montgomery County. Well, that fight seems to be about over, there's nothing really to talk about this week, just a little background noise and some attempted low blows, nothing to get excited about. Yet. So here're a couple of thoughts I'm having.

First, sympathize with my son, the 17-year-old, who snatched the new Harry Potter book out of his dear mother's hands and ran to his room, where he read the whole thing the day it came out. Then, sometime after midnight on Saturday night (Sunday morning, some of you call it, but I don't), he sort of staggered around the house, saying, "Man, that was good. A lot of stuff happens." Totally distracted, going over all the details of the plot in his head, realizing how different parts were set up in the early chapters, why somebody did this or that. But - ha! - there was nobody to talk to about it! Who died? He knew, couldn't tell anybody. How's it end? Couldn't say. That was tough. Of course, the next day his sister stayed up late and read it, so now they can talk, but not in front of Mom, who's on the sofa trying to sneak a peek as I write this.

It just seems like a funny dilemma, everybody in the world is reading that book, but Q: When you're the first one to finish it, where do you go? Who can you talk to? A: Nowhere. Nobody.

Then, a totally unrelated topic. You have a mouse on your computer. If you went to the store and there were a bunch of them on the shelf, would you say to the salesperson, "How much are your mice?" Or would you say, "How much are your mouses?"

It seems to me that people say the latter, they say "mouses," and I find that very interesting. OK, the batter flied out, it wasn't that he flew out to right field, I get that one. He doesn't really fly. But how do we decide whether to follow the standard linguistic rule for making a plural out of mouse? A computer mouse is obviously called that because it's about the same size as a regular mouse, it isn't an entirely different concept. So why are two of them "mouses?"

Or are they?

Ah check this poll out.


More from Mother Tongue Annoyances.

<stroking_chin_thoughtfully> The always erudite Language Log NOTES that:
"Sometimes, a morphologically-irregular word form becomes regularized when the word is used in a new way:

Factories churn out Barbies, Mickey Mouses (*Mickey Mice) and Ninja Turtles."

Oh, great -- Mickey Mouses.

Well, yes ...


Blogger andrea said...

We had two books - 2 people read it Saturday and one of us finished it Sunday night. The solution for the earlier readers- who were in different cities- was internet discussion. The three of us now can discuss it out of the hearing of the 4th famiy member who will probably not get around to reading this book untilthe movie comes out.

July 24, 2007 8:46 AM  
Anonymous MCPS Mom said...

Thanks to all the early readers for not spilling the Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans.

I am still waiting for my kids to finish so I can read it.

July 24, 2007 1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we had 3 books for 4 readers all purchased at midnight parties. Three finished over the weekend (mom, dad and 16 year old daughter) and one still reading. (daughter 13 is on page 450). Son 11 has only read through book 4. theresa

July 24, 2007 11:01 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Ah, Theresa, that's interesting, a book for everybody. When our kids were little, we decided not to buy two of everything. There've been a couple of conflicts because of that, but overall I'd say they've learned to share, and to wait their turn.


July 25, 2007 8:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But your wife ended up waiting for your son, instead of taking turns...

which is exactly what would have happened in my house with my daughter.

And I didn't want to wait.
An excellent use to twenty bucks.

We bought the two extra for the adults, not the kids ....

July 25, 2007 10:58 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

I let my daughter go first and we are taking one of the books with us to Israel to give away(to a particular place- not randomly on the street). I guess it is not that books are always more expensive overseas but that incomes are less. When I was visiting London ,a friend here gave me a book of Shakespeare's plays to take to her son- which seemed like taking coals to Newcastle-except that the British "coals" were a lot more than the $9.95 she spent at Barnes and Noble here.

July 25, 2007 3:59 PM  

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