Irregular plurals

Sir, – In expressing a dilemma about pluralising "computer mouse", and as to whether it becomes "mice" or "mouses", Mattie Lennon (Letters, September 8th) is not the first to ponder this.

The eminent linguist and science writer Steven Pinker, in Words and Rules (1999) wrote that, when lecturing on regularity and irregularity in language “the question I’m asked most often is ‘what’s the deal with the plural of computer mouse?’”.

Prof Pinker has in fact studied the issue in several different ways.

A similar dilemma applies to several other nouns – “lowlife” is one obvious example, as are Batman and Superman, such as in “I think Superman Three is better than the first two Supermans”. The relevant chapter of the book is thus titled “Of mice and men”.

Ultimately the views of native speakers will determine what sounds and feels correct, and so perhaps Mr Lennon should use whatever term jars the least with him. In data terms, the analysis of Prof Pinker’s team focused initially on sales brochures for computer equipment.

Many simply used “computer mouse” as a heading alongside “printers, notebooks” and so on. None used “mouses” and more than half referred to “mice”.

Evidence suggests that, in the interim, the use of “computer mice” as a phrase is increasing. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – As it crops up from time to time, the correct plural for mouse is “mouse-pointing devices”, according to the house style guide in Microsoft when I worked there, though things may have changed since then. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 9.