Why the Plural of Moose Isn’t “Meese”

It's a wild grammatical moose chase.

Some words just get lost in translation. For example, the Filipino word gigil means that something is just so unbearably cute that you have to pinch or squeeze it. Other words may not get lost entirely, but might get a little fragmented in the process. A prime example would be the word moose.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, moose is a “loanword,” meaning that it was a word that was incorporated into the English language from a foreign language with little or no modification. Many other words in the English language are also loanwords, but moose is a relatively new addition, incorporated from several Indigenous languages in the early 1600s. The timeframe here matters. 

Words like goose, tooth, and foot, date back up to a thousand years before moose, when Old English was the only form of English. Back then, pluralization was different; mutations, or sound changes to words, would denote whether or not certain words were plural or singular. As Oxford Dictionaries puts it, a mutation is: “a change in the sound of a vowel produced by partial assimilation to an adjacent sound (usually that of a vowel or semivowel in the following syllable).”

As time wore on, words which used mutations for pluralization were replaced by the more standard modern plural ending (-s) or held onto the pluralizations from their original languages (fungus retained its Latin pluralization of fungi.) Moose fell into the latter category; its origins can be traced back to both the Eastern Algonquian and Narragansett languages, which used neither mutations nor the standard modern pluralizations. 

[Source: Oxford Dictionaries]

Now that you know why the plural of moose isn’t meese, put your knowledge of Canadian slang terms to the test.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest