Fake Latin plural . . .

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sat May 20 12:46:55 UTC 2006


Strange as it may seem, I clearly recall a brief period when the "real plural" of _hippopotamus_ and  _octopus_ was a point of discussion in my public elementary school.  This was about 1955 or 1956.  (I first heard the "stewardus" joke around 1960.)

  Could it be that Berman - a frequent guest on _The Ed Sullivan Show_, IIRC - was chiefly responsible for the enduring madness ?  Not many people were likely to make the "stewardess/ -us/ -i" connection ab nihilo.

  JL

Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Wilson Gray
Subject: Re: Fake Latin plural . . .
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A bit of history for those who were still only a smile on the face of their
(grand)fathers during the relevant time period.

In the spring of 1955, I attended the Third(?) Annual Rhythm-and-Blues Show=
,
a kind of traveling circus of mainly-black (that year's headliner was
gag-me-with-a-spoon Bill Haley, one of several white men who invented
the term, "rock-and-roll," and the Comets)
talent.

The show's closer was a stand-up - well, sit-on-a-high-stool - comedian
named Shelly Berman, now the late-great. Part of Berman's shtik was a bit i=
n
which he made fun of random oddities of the English language, among these
oddities being the formation of plurals. One of his examples was exactly an=
d
specifically the singular-plural pair, "Stewardess, stewardi."

I found Berman to be so funny that I bought and still own his LP, as far as
I know, the only one that he ever recorded. He eventually turned up again a=
s
a character actor on TV and in the movies.

BTW, it took me perhaps twenty years to get the point of "stewardess,
stewardi," since it was in no way clear to me how even the most
ignorant of speakers of English
could possibly conclude that the singular of a specifically-feminine
English word was pluralized by
using the anglicized version of a specifically-masculine Latin plural
ending. (I eventually understood that "stewardess" was meant to be
heard as "stewardus."
It still doesn't strike me as funny.) It was
the rest of his shtik that had me ROTFLMAO.

-Wilson

-Wilson

On 5/19/06, Barnhart wrote:
>
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Barnhart
> Subject: Re: Fake Latin plural . . .
>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------=
------
>
> Stewardae is a similar confusion with stewardus for stewardess.
>
> Regards,
> David
>
> barnhart at highlands.com
>
> American Dialect Society writes:
>
>
> >---------------------- Information from the mail header
> >-----------------------
> >Sender: American Dialect Society
> >Poster: Jesse Sheidlower
> >Subject: Re: Fake Latin plural . . .
>
> >------------------------------------------------------------------------=
-------
> >
> >On Fri, May 19, 2006 at 03:48:36PM +0100, Chris F. Waigl wrote:
> >>
> >> I had to make an effort the other day to remain silent when someone
> >came
> >> up with "linii" (context: installing two different
> >flavours of them side
> >> by side).
> >
> >Really. Any idiot knows it's "linices".
> >
> >:-)
> >
> >Jesse Sheidlower
> >OED
> >
> >------------------------------------------------------------
> >The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> >
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>

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