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Much Ado About English: Up and Down the Bizarre Byways of a Fascinating Language by Richard W Todd

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Two dog-dog

Different languages form plurals in different ways. Some languages, such as Thai, don’t differentiate between singular and plural nouns, so that you talk about one dog and two dog. Others make the logical step of simply using a noun twice to indicate a plural. So in Indonesian, you could have two dog-dog. Fortunately these languages stop at a single repetition of the noun; otherwise you’d have to talk about the six wife-wife-wife-wife-wife-wife of Henry VIII, and the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ would take forever to sing.

Most European languages, on the other hand, add a marker at the end of the noun to show a plural. In the case of English, of course, this marker is usually an s. It’s not quite that simple, however (nothing is ever ...

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