I’m not entirely sure what genius invented all the rules of grammar in the English language, but he was either sadistic, or had a great sense of humor. I imagine conversations went like this:
English Grammar Guy 1: We need a rule for forming plurals.
English Grammar Guy 2: How about adding an “s” to the end?
English Grammar Guy 1: Ooh, yeah. Or we can confuse people by sometimes adding “es.” Oh! I know! Let’s totally mess with people and make those rules only apply to half the words, then make random decisions with the other ones!
English Grammar Guy 2: Yes! Like “deer.” Let’s just make it “deer” either way. Nobody will get that! Or how about “mouse?” Let’s make up a totally new word that doesn’t make sense with any of the other rules. I’m thinking, “mice.”
This whole thing was sparked by a long, confusing, and somewhat frustrating conversation I had with Goo about cleaning her room because a pest control guy was coming to deal with “a mouse in the wall.” This is what ensued:
Me: Goo, clean up your toys because a man is coming tomorrow to get rid of the mouse in the wall.
Goo: Is he getting rid of all the mouses?
Me: Yes, he’s getting rid of all the mice.
Goo: What are mice? And what about the mouses?
Me: “Mice” is how you say more than one mouse. So if there’s more than one mouse in the wall, you say “mice.” Like this: one bee, two bees. One ball, two balls. One mouse, two mice.
Goo: ALL THOSE THINGS ARE IN THE WALL?
Me: No. Just the mice.
Goo: What. are. MICE???
Me: Sigh. It’s just mouses honey. He’s getting rid of the mouses.
The next day…
Goo: Why is the man here?
Me: He’s here to get rid of the mice.
Goo: Why do you keep saying, “mice?” What are they?
Me: I’m going to explain it to you. There are different words you use if you have one thing, or lots of things. We have one mouse, or two mice. Like this – you can have one banana, or lots of bananas. Does that make sense?
Goo: Umm yeah.
Me: So we have one mouse, or two…?
Sigh. I gave up. At least for now. God help me when she has to learn why you need the possessive with a gerund.