[Note: This image is of a meerkat. Meerkats are members of the mongoose family.]
On the Grammar Girl Facebook page, a reader named Anurag Chatrath said that my recent tip about the plural of hippopotamus made him think of a joke about a mongoose. I thought I had heard every language joke out there, but I had never heard this one, so I’m sharing it with you today. Since then I’ve found many versions on the Internet, but this is how Anurag told it:
The keeper of a zoo wants to order two of these creatures from the keeper of another zoo. So he begins to write, “Kindly send us two mongeese,” since the plural of “goose” is “geese.”
But instinctively he realizes something is wrong, and decides to amend it. He tears it up and writes again, “Kindly send us two mongooses,” since the plural is formed normally by adding an S.
Again he is doubtful, so he rewrites, “Kindly send us two mongoose,” presuming that “mongoose” follows the example of “sheep” and “deer,” which remain unchanged in the plural.
Still he is dissatisfied, and tries “mongi,” “mongoosen,” “mongoossi,” and “mongice,” after the examples of “fungus,” “ox,” “bandit,” and “mouse” changing in the plural to “fungi,” fuhn-jahy “oxen,” “banditti,” and “mice” respectively.
But none of them look OK to him. He finally writes, “Kindly send us one mongoose, and while you’re at it, send us another one.”
As you can tell, that still makes me laugh. Good solution!
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.