LINGUIST List 2.575

Fri 27 Sep 1991

Disc: Mice and Mouses

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Bill Poser, plurals
  2. Allan C. Wechsler, 2.559 Mouses
  3. Margaret Fleck, of mice and mouses

Message 1: plurals

Date: Wed, 25 Sep 91 12:27:48 -0700
From: Bill Poser <>
Subject: plurals
I am astounded by the contention that computer mice have the plural
"mouses". I don't think that I have ever heard "mouses" instead of
"mice", and I inhabit a computer-intensive world in which mice
are a frequent topic of conversation. Is this a geographic division,
or one between computer people and others? Who says "mouses"?
Indeed, in a certain milieu there has been a fashion of extending the
-en plural. Thus, we have the following singular/plural pairs:
 VAX (Digital Equipment computer line) VAXen
 Chipmunk (HP 9836 computer) Chipmunken
 Macintosh Macintoshen
 BLIT (AT&T intelligent terminal) BLITzen
 (the //z// is NOT a typo)
and box^boxen, where "box" means workstation, as in
"In our lab we have various UNIX boxen."
For me, these are so well established that the -s plural is
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Message 2: 2.559 Mouses

Date: Wed, 25 Sep 1991 15:42-0400
From: Allan C. Wechsler <ACWYUKON.SCRC.Symbolics.COM>
Subject: 2.559 Mouses
 Date: Wed, 25 Sep 1991 12:24 EDT
 From: The Linguist List
 Date: Mon, 23 Sep 91 16:28:48 EDT
 From: elc9jprime.acc.Virginia.EDU
 Subject: 2.552 Responses: macs, needs, being, roles
 With respect to "mouses" (computer) vs. "mice" (rodent). Note that
 the plural of "walkman" is "walkmans", not "walkmen". On the other
 hand, the plural of "workman" is "workmen". The irregular plurals seems
 more closely tied to the original, literal meaning, whereas the newer,
 more metaphorical meaning allows the more productive plural.
 -Ellen Contini-Morava
In "Hacker English", the jargon of computerphiles that has radiated from
a few universities in recent years, and of which I fancy myself a native
speaker (MIT 1974-1982), there is a marked preference for irregular
plurals. I never hear pointing devices, in the plural, called anything
except "mice"; and the plural of "spouse" is frequently "spice". Plural
DEC 11/780's are frequently called "vaxen", and the plural of "bignum"
(roughly, an integer bigger than a single memory word can hold) is
An unrelated chuckle:
Natasha: Ve need a safecracker!
Boris: Ve already got a safecracker?
Natasha: Ve do? Whom?
Boris: Meem, dat's whom!
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Message 3: of mice and mouses

Date: Wed, 25 Sep 91 18:33:32 -0500
From: Margaret Fleck <>
Subject: of mice and mouses
There may be dialect variation in the plural of "mouse." In the computer
science communities I've worked in, the plural was "mice" even if it
was made of metal and plastic. Then again, I have a pair of plurals for
another item: "indices" are the little numbers that hang onto variables
in mathematics, but "indexes" (or perhaps "indices") are the things
that occupy so many pages at the back of books.
Margaret Fleck
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