“Look at those sheeps!” cried Josie from the back of the car.
“Hmm…sheep…one of those words where the plural is the same as the singular,” I said, trying not to sound didactic or pedantic or humourless. “There are quite a few animal nouns that don’t have separate plural forms in English – fish, deer, grouse, swine, bison…”
“It’s perfectly ok to say ‘the bisons are restless tonight’,” interrupted Josie, “and anyway there are no bisons in Wales.”
“What are you talking about? I’ve got two bi sons for starters!”
And we cackled with laughter all the way down the winding road to Porthcawl and the sea.
“Every one of the chemical elements has the same plural as singular too,” I pondered aloud over a cup of tea and a Belgian bun in a cafe on the Esplanade. “You never hear of Nitrogens, Golds, Neons, Borons and Coppers…”
“If you bore on much longer I’ll be calling the coppers,” she quipped.
“And don’t forget crops,” I continued, warming to my theme, “you never add an ‘s’ to wheat, corn, maize, barley…”
“How about oats?”
“Not now sweetheart, that Belgian bun’s taken it out of me.”
We popped across the bay to see Laura in Newton. She’s meant to be on the wagon, but was soon gulping down Stella straight from the can.
“Come to think of it, individual species of fish also remain the same in the plural: look at salmon, cod, trout…”
“Who you calling a trout?” squawked Laura, standing on the coffee table, totally pissed after a couple of sips.
“Scissors, tweezers, clothes, glasses, trousers…but I suppose they’re plurals to begin with and don’t have a singular…”
“Trouser!” yelled Laura, drunk already.
“No petal, that’s a verb, as in ‘I keep it trousered'”
“Yeah, so I’ve heard!” yelled Laura gleefully. Oh how we guffawed.
Later on, Josie and I got ice-creams and wandered through Trecco Bay caravan park.
“Big, unmeasurable entities don’t have a plural either,” I persisted, “think of air, traffic, water…”
“Let’s take the waters!” exclaimed Josie.
We had a paddle in Rest Bay. The tide was full out. The sea was unimaginably freezing to begin with, tolerably cold after a while, and pleasantly tepid eventually. I washed my face in the briny slapping ocean.
“I hope someone doesn’t nick my shoeses. What would I put on my foots?” I said, looking back at the beach. “The water’s above my kneeses, my jeanses are soaking and my testicleses have ascended.”
“Now you’re being silly. Time to go.”
Driving back to Cardiff on the M4, I tried to think of more examples. “Craft, as in aircraft and spacecraft. Anything ending in ‘ies’, like species and series. Umm…”
“Folk!” chimed in Josie.
“We can’t love, it would be dangerous. I’m doing 75 miles an hour and you’d block my view. Get back under your tartan travel blanket. Mice and dice are strange plurals aren’t they?”
I dropped Josie off at her place. “We haven’t covered French borrowings like rendezvous, corps and chassis,” said Josie, showing off. “Coming in for coffee?”
“Oh, so not a dry sherry and a hand of canasta, nor even a sniff of paraquat and a zipless fuck?” I jested. “Where do I park in this godforsaken hipster concentration camp?”
Over a glass of red at the ‘breakfast bar’ I stayed on topic. “What’s your rent for these premises? Whoops, there’s another one!”
“750 pound,” replied Josie. She always has to have the last word.