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Friday, September 07, 2007

Puzzled

My boss Steve got me with this one. And he waited three months to tell me the answer.

What English word changes from masculine to feminine and from plural to singular when you add an "S" to it?

If no one gets it, I'll post the answer in the comments section.

Labels:

2 Comments:

At 9/07/2007 05:35:00 PM, Blogger Walaka said...

John:

I think you (or Steve) crafted the question wrong.

Telling us it changes from masculine to feminine is too much information; English is not a gendered language, so you could only be referring to meaning, not form.

That being the case, we know we are talking about something with an "-ess" ending, because that gives us the male/female split; granted, it could also be "-ette," but adding an "s" to "xxxxes"provides the shift from plural to singular, and that won't work with "-ette."

Now we just have to think of "male" word ending in "e".

How about "prince"?

Which gives us "princes" (male, plural)

Which gives us "princess" (female, singular)

(This is actually even funnier because there is a "Princes Street" in Vancouver, BC, and most visitors call it "Princess Street.")

So, if you had just said "What English word changes from a plural word to a singular word when you add an "s" -- then we would have had to figure out the logic as well as the instance.

Cool, though!

 
At 9/08/2007 11:32:00 AM, Blogger John said...

Well played sir.

I immediately got off on the wrong foot, thinking about words like "alumnus" and "alumnae" and did not come to the same process quickly or easily.

As for singular/plural and masculine/feminine, I think maybe this is the only word where both things change with the addition of an "s".

 

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