A writer is someone who writes, and a stinger is something that stings. But fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce, haberdashers don’t haberdash, hammers don’t ham, and humdingers don’t humding. If the plural of tooth is teeth, shouldn’t the plural of booth be beeth? One goose, two geese — so one moose, two meese? One index, two indices — one Kleenex, two Kleenices? If people ring a bell today and rang a bell yesterday, why don’t we say that they flang a ball? If they wrote a letter, perhaps they also bote their tongue.
If the teacher taught, why isn’t it also true that the preacher praught? Why is it that the sun shone yesterday while I shined my shoes, that I treaded water and then trod on the beach, and that I flew out to see a World Series game in which my favorite player flied out? If we conceive a conception and receive at a reception, why don’t we grieve a greption and believe a beleption? If a horsehair mat is made from the hair of horses and a camel’s hair brush from the hair of camels, from what is a mohair coat made? If adults commit adultery, do infants commit infantry? If olive oil is made from olives, what do they make baby oil from? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? (And I’m beginning to worry about those authoritarians.) And if pro and con are opposites, is congress the opposite of progress?
Crazy English: the Ultimate Joy Ride Through Our Language, Richard Lederer (Pocket Books, 1989)