Plural of ''man'' being ''men''.

Senk   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 19:20 GMT
Why is the plural of ''man'', ''men'' instead of ''mans''? Who came up with such an odd irregular plural for ''man''.

And also, why didn't they give the word ''pan'' a similar plural, ''pen''?

One man, two men

One pan, two pans
Damian   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 20:29 GMT
Dear Senk:

This is the English language we are dealing with here....full of irregularitiies, mate...sorry about that, but there you go!

Offhand I can't explain the exact reason for so many variations from the "normal" plural forms for nouns (simply adding an "s").

There are several groups of English words which display irregular plural forms, and without delving right back into the depths of their origins from Old English, or the original Germanic, I cannot give you a clear answer to your questions. The reasons are buried way back in the development of our modern day language from Old English, and later Middle English.

Until we can find out for real just WHY these plural forms differ from the norm, we just have to accept them and learn them.

Man = men; pan = pens. Just accept it as the way it is.
Woman becomes Women

There are other irregular plurals, not the same as the above examples.

Foot = feet but Boot = boots
Goose = geese but Moose in the plural stays exactly the same! (One moose or ten moose)

Mouse = mice but House = houses
Tooth = teeth but Booth = booths
Hoof = Hooves but Roof = roofs

Other plurals take different endings:
Ox = Oxen
Child = Children
Loaf = Loaves

In some nouns the plura forms are open to dispute, like:
Scarf = Scarves OR Scarfs
Dwarf = Dwarves or Dwarfs (latter is more usual)

Words of Latin origin should technically take the original plural form:

Datum = Data, but I don't think anybody uses the original singular form.

I think I may have rambled on a wee bit too much...all you wanted to know about was "man/men" "pan/pens" I guess...sorry
Damian   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 20:31 GMT

Erratum (plural = errata!):-

<<pan = pens>> should be: Pen = pens

my apology
Dulcinea del Toboso   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 21:22 GMT
Many irregular plurals in English derive from the same irregular nouns in the Germanic languages.

For example, German: Mann, Männer

This a -> ä (a -> e as it appears in English) is a result of i-mutation.
Jordi   Thursday, September 16, 2004, 21:45 GMT
"penis" plural "penises" or Latin "penes" :-)
From the sublime   Friday, September 17, 2004, 06:27 GMT
to the ridiculous. Very helpful, Jordi!
Mi5 Mick   Friday, September 17, 2004, 07:25 GMT
datum -> data
medium -> media
alga -> algae
bacterium -> bacteria
paparazzo -> paparazzi
Easterner   Friday, September 17, 2004, 13:03 GMT
Actually the irregular plurals such as "man" --> "men", "foot --> feet", "mouse" --> "mice" are a remnant of the "glorious" Anglo-Saxon times (depending on taste), and a sign of old Germanic kinship (compare German "Mann" - "Männer", "Fuss" - "Füsse", "Maus" - "Mäuse", etc.). So they are very English and very Germanic. By the way, personally I think a language totally void of irregularities would be the most boring thing on earth. Languages are like people. And a little irregularity here and there (actually very often a great deal of it) is what makes us look human and interesting and indeed, bearable. Otherwise we would be like robots and our languages machine speech. Now languages are alive and unpredictabele enough to be interesting.
Easterner   Friday, September 17, 2004, 13:08 GMT
Sorry, Damian and Dulcinea, now I realise I partly repeated some points of yours. But at least I added my own two cents' worth of ruminations, so I hope you don't mind. :-)
Eric   Friday, September 17, 2004, 17:25 GMT
Though the irregularity is irritating, it may be nice to know that with that specific word, you've just learned its basic plural form in every single Germanic language spoken in Europe. Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Swiss German, Faroes; doesn't matter, you've got the plural. The word 'man' in all these languages undergoes the same umlaut (a sound change in the stressed vowel), though it may be spelled differently.