Date: Wed, 20 Sep 1995 11:41:33 EDT


Subject: Re: Mouse/Mice=House/Hice

Oops. My thunder was just stolen (*stealed), as it often is, by Lynne. I was

about to cite Pinker's discussion in Chapter 4 of _The Language Instinct_ too,

with his distinction between the "headless" cases (fly out, Maple Leafs, Walk-

mans, low-lifes, sabertooths, Mickey Mouses [= people promoting Mickey Mouse

regulations],...) and the metaphorical extensions. I can but second Lynne's

reflections on why _mouse_, whose technological use is a fairly dead metaphor,

allows the two plural versions we have attested. Other metaphorical extensions

seem (to me) to vary depending on how distant the metaphor is: Webster's 2b

'a timid person' for me can only pluralize as _mice_, and I assume the same

would be the case for anyone who, unlike me, is familiar with 2a '[slang]

woman'. But 3, 'a dark-colored swelling caused by a blow, spec. a black eye',

is different:

The boxer had {?mouses/#mice} under both his eyes.

(Of course the latter is OK, if a bit unlikely, on the rodentary reading.)

Pinker has a nice discussion of why both 'Walkmans' and 'Walkmen' are so weird;

he notes that the officially sanctioned plural is 'Walkman Personal Stereos',

given Sony's fear of copyright dilution.

For what it's worth, I've heard 'The batter flew out to right'; I don't know

if this represents a change in progress (perhaps speakers no longer treat 'to

fly out' as derived from the noun and thus as being headless). On the other

hand, the only comparative and superlative I can imagine for the positive 'bad'

--that is, BAAAAAD--are the regular ones:

Michael Jackson may be baaad, but I'm even {baaaader/#worse}.

As for gooses, I think both glosses--'[instances of] sticking [one's]

thumb between a lot of people's legs up by their butts' and 'many-fingered

pinch(es) at the bottom of the buttocks (i.e., at the fold above the thigh)

[Lynne Murphy]'--fall within the extension. I'm not sure whether this is a

difference in the lexical entry or, as I suspect, a difference in method.