The plural of huntsman is huntsmans

The subject of huntsmans or huntsmen spiders came up recently on Trish’s blog (see comments). Well for a definitive answer, I asked my sister about it the other day. Not just ‘cos she’s a smart cookie or I was trying to make conversation, but because she studied linguistics at uni. And she was able to give me the answer. She mentioned a bunch of grammatical terms that I don’t recall now, but here’s the gist of it:

It’s huntsmans.

The reason it’s not huntsmen is that when considering the plural of a word, you only treat it the same as a root word (man, men) if the meaning is the same. In this case the man in huntsman spider is not literally a man.

Man. Men.

Workman. Workmen.

Postman. Postmen. (With a caveat that you shouldn’t be using such gender-biased terms, you sexist pig.)

Huntsman. Huntsmans.

Just to throw a spanner in the works, huntsman also refers to a man who hunts. So the plural of that would be huntsmen.

Another contentious one: a computer mouse does not refer literally to a mouse (even if the name was inspired by its appearance). But an oh so delicious chocolate mouse you might buy in Haigh’s does refer to a literal mouse, even if it’s just a portrayal of one.

Mouse. Mice.

Chocolate mouse. Chocolate mice.

Computer mouse. Computer mouses.

Make sense? It kinda does to me now…

Mmm…. chocolate.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

8 replies on “The plural of huntsman is huntsmans”

Im with Ren love taking the piss outta my daughter on moose, I say the plural is meeses lol gets a reaction every time!! if its not meeses I say what about goose? she thinks but its a pisser nonetheless…..maybe you have to be there? :)

The original computer mouse was called that because with its ‘ears’ (buttons) and ‘tail’ (cord) it looked (a bit) like the small furry rodent. ‘Mouse’ is thus the same word and – like ‘chocolate mouse’, ‘mechanical mouse’ and ‘cartoon mouse’ – should have the same plural – ‘mice’.

You can explain that away by saying that in this word, man comes from the Latin manus, hand. It is used in the same meaning as in ‘deckhand’ or ‘leading hand’. And therefore ‘postman’, like ‘chairman’, is not gender-biased at all. Works for me, anyway :)

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