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oxen, pence, seraphim

January 31, 2012

I’ve just heard Steve Backshall on Deadly 60 refer to ‘an angry musk oxen’. I like Backshall as a presenter, but really – he ought to know that oxen is a plural. Probably he does know and that was just a slip. Plurals which are a)irregular and b) not used all that often are easy to make mistakes with. I have heard people  say cherubims and seraphims, not realising that the suffix -im already indicates the plural (interestingly my word-processing programme does know – it just tried to auto-correct). But one that’s always puzzled me is pence. The singular form penny is well-known – what do people think pence is, if not a plural? But I wish I had one penny for every time I’ve heard somebody say one pence. I’d have about a pound.

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