Wednesday, September 14, 2011

ibides?

Column 8 has been involved in a furious workplace argument about the plural form of the word ''ibis'' (the bird that tears garbage bags to shreds with apparent impunity all over the CBD). We favour ''ibi'' over the clumsy, but allegedly correct ''ibises''. Thoughts?
''Elegant and attractive though 'ibi' is, sadly the Latin plural does not apply in this case as it should follow the pattern of third declension nouns, not second declension,'' asserts Greg King, of Springwood (Plural form of the annoying bird, Column 8, yesterday). ''Thus, if you're not content with the English 'ibises', it would have to be 'ibes', or, possibly, 'ibides'.'' Beware the ibes of September?

It has to be ''ibeese'', insists Erle Bartlett, of Burra, while Kenrick Riley, of Georgica, tells us that we are wrangling with a non-issue, assuring us that ''the common ibis are like sheep - they are both singular and plural''. But Lee Godfrey, of Biggera Waters, Queensland, backs up Column 8, and says simply ''I buy 'ibi''', as does Alison Axam, who actually has a kind word to say about the creatures: ''In our house it's definitely' ibi','' writes Alison. ''They might be feathered hooligans on the ground, but a fly-by of ibi is a joy to see.'' It's true, they are a fine sight on the wing - preferably heading far away.

''This reminds me of the story of the zookeeper who couldn't decide on the plural of mongoose when ordering livestock,'' recalls Finola Border, of Petersham. ''Mongooses? Mongeese? After much deliberation he wrote 'Please send one mongoose to …', and then finished off with 'PS: better make that two'.''
I think I have pointed out before that, as any grammar book will tell you, the plural of ibis is ibitis.
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