Following is an article from the New York Times dated June 5, 1906. Anyone with an interest in wordplay, or the english language should take a moment and read this. I came across it working on my thesis. Enjoy…
The Considerate Mongoose
“This Republic was until Saturday, the embarrassed possessor of two mong–, that is, it had one mongoose at the Bronx Zoological Park, and another mongoose at the Rock Creek Zoo. The Rock Creek specimen considerately died on Saturday, thus relegating to the academic shades the infuriating and perfectly insoluble question of the plural. With one mongoose we can get along; two consitued a linguistic anomaly, and were certain source of profitless dispute and harrowing doubt.
“Send me a tailor’s goose, and eleven others just like it,” was the form finally adopted by the retail hardware dealer after successive rejections of tailor’s geese and tailor’s gooses. What is the plural of moose? It is not meese, of course, and nobody would say mooses. The statement of a tenderfoot who should declare that he saw seventeen moose in teh forest would be instantly questioned by the experienced hunter, but not on grammatical grounds. Moose goes as plural. But mongoose?
I want to be a mongoose,
And with the mongeese stand.
A proper and laudable aspiration, but the unlamented little beast of the Rock Creek Zoo knew he mustn’t do it. You can’t stop there. The anserine anaology bears you irresistably on to the mongoose and her mate, the mongander. The tribe of mongoose would never “stand for” that. The Rock Creek animal was driven back upon the metaphysical device of the ego and the non-ego. I, this mongoose, who sit here vainly barking up the grammar tree, and the other mong– there it goes again. In the intervals of pursuing his favorite preym the boot-haunting ophidia, the mongoose of Rock Creek, thought much and deeply on yjis subject. Condemned to a life of loneliness for in English-speaking countries must never be seen in company with another mongoose, he was unspeakably miserable, and he saw no way out. His accomplishments went for nothing. He could rob a henroost with a silent deftness that left the feathered ones spared quite unaware of their bereavement. He possessed consummate skill in the art of depleting an eggshell of its contents by that method in which the common law of repartee assumes ever man’s grandmother to be an expert. But what of that, if, so long as there was another one, he had no place in the structure of English speech? It made mongoose-flesh come out all over him. Let his martyred bones, whereve they mayy lie, be a warnin to those who henceforth may enrich our fauna by this addition of alien vertebrates, that they must import an animal from the language of his nativity a practicable plural.”
|Stand with the Mongeese!|
This article is 105 years old. Just something to think about.