Jul 12 2007


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“Hey, language boy,” Brigid called at Greg from the kitchen. “What’s the singular of rice?”

Greg blinked at this bit of randomness, got up from Sharon’s couch and made his way through the various party-goers to where Brigid was talking with a handful. “Sorry,” he said, “I didn’t quite catch that. It sounded as if you’d asked me what was the singular of rice.”

“That is what I asked you,” said Brigid.

“That is what you asked me?” said Greg. “But … that doesn’t make sense.”

“Sure it does,” said Brigid. “Look, you’ve got a bowl, and it’s full of rice, right? So what do you call it if there’s only one, er, bit of rice in the bowl?”


“No, no, what do you call the bit? Is it ‘a rice’? Or something else, like ‘one ris, two rice’?”

“I don’t think the word ‘rice’ works that way,” said Greg. “Rice is one of those weird ‘always possessive’ words, like ‘pants’. You have ‘a bowl of rice,’ not ‘rices in a bowl’. If you want to be technical, a single, er, unit of rice, would be a grain of rice.”

“And two units?”

“Two grains of rice.”

“So grain has a singular and plural, but rice doesn’t? That’s nuts. Why not, ‘one grain, two rice’?”

Greg shrugged. “I didn’t make the language, I’m just explaining it. Besides, that would start to get confusing if you were actually talking about wheat and people thought you were talking about rice.”

“Good point!” said Brigid. “So is ‘wheat’ singular or plural? Can you have two wheats?”

Greg squeezed his eyes shut. “You’re saying these things just to hurt me, aren’t you?”

-The Gneech

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