When the conversation drifts from wild chickens in Kauai to the mongoose population across the Hawaiian islands, one question comes up every time. Actually, a lot of questions come up every time—ranging from reckless introductions of invasive species to the potential collection of wild chicken eggs—but most importantly for our discussion is the question of the word “mongoose.” When you have one, we have no doubt about the singular form, but…
What is the plural of “mongoose”?
I don’t know about your conversations over dinner, but this was one of mine recently. I got a special enjoyment out of the question when every head at the table looked at me.
Not being a specialist in mongooses (or was it mongeese? what about monganders?), I did some research.
Most dictionaries consider “mongooses” the proper form, while a rare few will accept “mongeese” as an acceptable alternative. I think that might be a matter of so many mistakes finally being accepted as the norm, though, since “goose” and “mongoose” derive from different roots. “Goose” comes from Old English gos, which most likely derives from the Proto-Germanic gans. Alternatively, “mongoose” derives from the Hindi and Marathi word maṅgūs.
To conclude, I recommend you use “mongooses” as the plural form of “mongoose.” It seems to be the correct word. I’ll be sure to let all the company at my dinner table know, and you can help me spread the word too.
Knowing answers can be satisfying, but I can feel the rumbles of discontent from all those who felt sure “mongeese” was the correct answer. Interestingly, there was a petition sent to the UK Parliament on the matter in recent years, where a group was attempting to change the plural form of “mongoose” to “mongi.” The petition was rejected in the end, though, as spelling was considered an issue outside the role of British government.
Have your dinnertime conversations prompted any interesting discussions lately?
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