dwarves etc.

Mark A. Mandel Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
Fri Mar 9 17:43:40 UTC 2001

"Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET> writes:

I asked two young persons (ages 12, 8) to pluralize "dwarf", "scarf",
"hoof". Both answered "dwarves" (although both have seen the Disney video
with "dwarfs", and neither has read Tolkien or similar material),
"scarves", "hooves". Apparently they were taught in school that "-f" is
usually pluralized "-ves". They both gave "roofs", however. (The
12-year-old additionally was able to confidently produce "oafs" and
"briefs", and to differentiate "staffs"/"staves", and to intuit a
difference between "dwarves"/"dwarfs" in folklore/astronomy. How do they
learn this stuff?)

Although "neither has read Tolkien or similar material", are they gamers?
If they play live or computer RPGs (role-playing games), they may have
picked up "dwarves" from there, as those genres draw on the modern fantasy
tradition that inherits from Tolkien. Or they may have heard the usage from
friends. The use of "staves" strengthen this possibility, as AFAIK* this
plural is used only in music (sometimes) and in fantasy text and games
(very often), but never for personnel ("we discussed the research and
payroll staffs/*staves").

* as far as I know

   Mark A. Mandel : Dragon Systems, a Lernout & Hauspie company
          Mark_Mandel at dragonsys.com : Senior Linguist
 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02460, USA : http://www.dragonsys.com

More information about the Ads-l mailing list