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Hawkeye's avatar

Why do we say computer mouses instead of computer mice?

Asked by Hawkeye (1250points) August 24th, 2010

Is there a reason for this?

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18 Answers

LuckyGuy's avatar

Um… I say, “one computer mouse, two computer mice.”

Jude's avatar

We don’t.

Austinlad's avatar

Agree it’s mice! Good question. In fact, any question about grammar is a good question.

Frenchfry's avatar

MMM. I never thought of that. I say mouses. I should be mice.

downtide's avatar

I always say mice.

Randy's avatar

I say “clicky things”.

Austinlad's avatar

So the question was, I see on second reading, Why do we call them mice instead of mouses? I think because mice is grammatically correct when applied to the rodent, so why not for the peripheral? Besides, mouses just sounds ackward.

mrentropy's avatar

I say ‘mooses’ but only because I’m silly.

ucme's avatar

They’re referred to as Jerry’s in my house. Just because.

Hawkeye's avatar

I just watched a computer tech on TV and he said that the plural is ‘Computer Mouses’

OreetCocker's avatar

Never heard that!

Jeruba's avatar

After two decades of editing the writing of computer techs, I can assure you that they are rarely an authority on language and style.

“Mice” is the appropriate term as far as I am concerned, but every once in a while I do hear someone say “mouses” almost as a slip, the same way a person might just thoughtlessly say “deers” or “childs” even though they know better.

morphail's avatar

If people do say “computer mouses”, perhaps it is because the term “computer mouse” is a headless compound – it’s not a kind of mouse, in the same way that a “low life” is not a kind of life. Headless compounds are often pluralized regularly.

mrentropy's avatar

“meeses” is good, too.

Jeruba's avatar

@morphail, new concept for me. (The Pinker book is in my gotta-get-to-this stack.) I guess that also explains why “Bluetooths” sounds ok.

Is there some kind of slaunchwise relationship between that and what makes people say things like this?

— That data hasn’t been inputted yet.
— In this class we’ll learn how to problem solve and plan make.

How about “I blow-dried my hair”? If I consult the systematic-language department of my brain, it suggests “I blew my hair dry,” but the normal-usage department doesn’t countenance anything so rigid.

morphail's avatar

@Jeruba yes. When nouns are verbed, they often form their past tense in ”-ed”. It’s sometimes called zero derivation. I think Pinker talks about this too. He uses the example of “fly out” in baseball, which is “flied out” and not “flew out”. It’s also why we say “breakfasted” instead of “brokefast”.

Jeruba's avatar

Very interesting, @morphail. But “inputted” isn’t verbing a noun. “Put” is a verb. Or would you argue that it has first become nominalized with “input” and “output” so that by the time we are using them as a verb it’s going the other way?

When I first worked with computers in 1970, “input” was clearly being used as both a noun and a verb, and we said “You input the charges on punched cards, and the system outputs an invoice.” Maybe its usage has changed over these decades as the novelty has vanished.

We don’t say “We brokefast at eleven,” agreed, but we very well might read “We broke our fast on the deck to the gentle accompaniment of the waves,” taking the word back to its literal origins.

morphail's avatar

@Jeruba I had assumed that the modern verb “input” was derived from the noun “input”, but it might not have been. The OED doesn’t separate the computer usage from the earlier usage of the verb, and derives the verb from “in”+“put”. The most common past participle is apparently “input”.

I don’t know the details of “blow-dry”, but I think something similar is going on. With “breakfasted”, “greenlighted” and “flied out”, we have definite zero derivations from nouns. I’d recommend reading Pinker’s book.

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