I got stuck on auto-repeat the other day, saying the same word over and over again until it didn’t make any sense.

The word: roof.

My paternal grandfather pronounced it r?f, like the sound a barking dog makes or something very much akin to “rough”.

I tend to say it rüf, although both forms are acceptable.

Much like Jon Lovitz and “tartlets”, the word had lost all meaning

The more I thought about the disparity of our pronunciations, the more I wondered: what is the correct plural form of the word roof? Roofs sounded correct when I spoke or spelled it, but rooves seemed to fit into the rules of the English language.

I immediately started a draft of this blog post and came up with this initial list:

  • Calf/Calves
  • Half/Halves
  • Hoof/Hooves (also hoofs)
  • Dwarf/Dwarves
  • Thief/Thieves

Why not Roof/Rooves?

Cursory research on my part (Hey! It’s a blog.) seems to indicate that rooves is an older, irregular form that was dropped in favor of conforming to more regular plural nouns.

I don’t have online access to the Oxford English Dictionary but it purports that the rooves form is “archaic”.

Other nouns that end in the letter “f” but are regular plurals:

  • proof
  • belief
  • puff
  • chief
  • cuff
  • relief
  • handkerchief
  • reef
  • midriff

Maybe all the irregular forms will become regular at some point. I certainly don’t find it strange to say (but maybe to spell) “thiefs” or “halfs” but maybe that’s just me.

Interesting note: “dwarfs” is actually the accepted form, unless you’re J.R.R. Tolkien.

Happy Tuesday!

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