roofs or rooves and pronunciation

timpeac

Senior Member
English (England)
Hi

I was just watching a TV programme - a quiz show about the English language which, I must admit, often annoys me with the supercilious and superior manner they give out misinformation - where someone stated that despite the pronunciation "rooves" "roofs" remains the usual spelling. Now, I agree with that but the show host snorted before stating that he certainly didn't spell it that way and it used to be spelt "rooves" which he still follows, thus reflecting the pronunciation. That sounds like a load of tosh to me since I'm sure I've never come across "rooves" as a written word (just to be clear, I know it is pronounced that way).

What do you think? I was once given an English to French translation with the word "beeves" in it which, having no idea what it might mean and having checked the largest dictionary in the library (and it was getting on for the size of a trunk) in which the word was not to be found, I confidently stated the word didn't exist. I was then informed it was on a standard list of irregular plurals of English words for foreign learners as the plural of "beef" meaning (what I would say as) "a side of beef" (eg the dead carcass hanging on a hook). Since then I've never been quite so sure of these things!:)
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    The WRF dictionary has it right: see here roofs for example , although interestingly it allows 'v' in the pronunciation of roofs. I say roofs with a 'f'...

    Tolkien has a lot to answer for re dwarfs vs dwarves....

    Loob
     

    lizzeymac

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Yes, it appears to be true, though I have only seen it written in Chaucer or Spenser.

    Roof-rooves, staff-staves, see Wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_plural

    I am sure if we go back far enough all kinds of words "exist."

    I empathize with your comments about supercilious quiz show hosts- their attitude spoils any possible enjoyment from learning something new.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    The WRF dictionary has it right: see here roofs for example , although interestinlgly it allows 'v' in the pronunciation of roofs. I say roofs with a 'f'...

    Tolkien has a lot to answer for re dwarfs vs dwarves....

    Loob
    Thanks - I certainly know that "roofs" is allowed, and strongly suspect standard, but I was surprised at this insistance that "rooves" was an acceptable alternative.

    By the way - I had no idea that in pronunciation terms "rooves" was not universal, I didn't know that it was also pronounced "roofs" in some places - given that fact, it makes it even more surprising why someone might insist on "rooves" as a spelling.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Rooves gets a mention in the OED as a dialect plural of roof. The standard plural is roofs.

    Hoof, of course, has plural hooves as well as the more common hoofs.

    Beeves? A poetic version of oxen, cattle.

    It looks like it would be best to stick with roofs and hoofs.

    Edit: In my part of the world roofs gets a good f. Hooves, gets a definite v rather than f.
     

    ireney

    Modistra
    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    A not so quick google search shows that it's a controversial subject that has puzzled many! It seems that some dictionaries list "rooves" as a non-standard alternative. In a discussion found here someone reports that
    Cambridge ('common mistakes at proficiency') says that "rooves" is correct...

    having checked the merriam-webster's dictionary, it says it's an archaic spelling, but the 'mistakes' booklet was written in 2005 and there is no mention of it being archaic or out of use.

    but then that's hearsay :D.

    Interesting question that I cannot answer since I don't have a dictionary big enough :)

    Note: there's always thief-thieves and no one can blam professor Tolkien for this one :D
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Yes, it appears to be true, though I have only seen it written in Chaucer or Spenser.

    Roof-rooves, staff-staves, see Wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_plural

    I am sure if we go back far enough all kinds of words "exist."

    I empathize with your comments about supercilious quiz show hosts- their attitude spoils any possible enjoyment from learning something new.
    Oh right - so it is at least attested, then. The way he was speaking seemed to suggest that such a spelling was quite normal "in his youth" which, at least mentally speaking, seemed to be several millennia ago! On that basis he might as well claim that "I will to bed" or any other various Middle English spellings/ expressions are acceptble. Pray thee thanks for the info:).
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Panj/Ireney - thanks for your information too. It all seems that this host was incorrect to pooh-pooh "roofs" then (in the way that pedants often disparage neologisms) simply assuming that the more unusual "rooves" must be "correct" (whatever that might mean):).By the way - the "beeves" translation was in a 19th century book. I found it quite amusing that a word which left me utterly perplexed to the extent that its real meaning never occurred to me was immediately clear to my foreign-speaking teacher (she thought that that was the usual plural)! They should teach irregular plurals to us too!

    Anyone for a beeve?
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    The OED lists the plural as roofs. Chambers has this:
    roof noun (roofs or common in spoken English, but non-standard in writing rooves)
    In addition to the previous examples, we have leaf/leaves, knife/knives, wife/wives. Roofs looks more like the exception than the rule.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    The OED lists the plural as roofs. Chambers has this:
    roof noun (roofs or common in spoken English, but non-standard in writing rooves)
    In addition to the previous examples, we have leaf/leaves, knife/knives, wife/wives. Roofs looks more like the exception than the rule.
    Absolutely. I think this is just an example of someone thinking that the more "unusual" version must, for that reason alone, be "correct".

    Thanks for the German grammar link, Cuchu, I'm surprised they didn't join their French cousins by recommending "beeves" over the more usual "we don't have a word for it, but if forced might say something like "sides of beef"".:D
     

    xingtiao

    New Member
    English - Scottish/Australian
    I happen to come from one of those dialect areas which uses 'rooves' as a matter of course; well it did when I was a child in the West of Scotland in the 1950s. Also, I would never have wanted to argue with the brilliant linguist, Tolkien. I'm quite happy to accept 'rooves' as a correct variant. Then, of course, all of us do accept what we're used to, don't we? It is the basis for most of the responses on this thread.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    For me, it's always (in both speech and writing) roof/roofs, hoof/hooves.

    Go figure:eek:

    And by the way, I don't blame Tolkien for all this. Only for confusing people about the fact that - except in Tolkien-land - the plural of dwarf is dwarfs.
    (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:thumbsup: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves:thumbsdown:).
     

    nljfs

    New Member
    English - Standard American
    Just wanted to say that around here, suburban Chicago, that it is roof/roofs and hoof/hooves for both pronunciation and spellings.

    I find the changes to the English language over time & dialect to be fascinating & the conundrums that arise from it. Aren't we glad that we don't have an Academie pronouncing what is correct ruling over us?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    For me, it's always (in both speech and writing) roof/roofs, hoof/hooves.

    Go figure:eek:

    And by the way, I don't blame Tolkien for all this. Only for confusing people about the fact that - except in Tolkien-land - the plural of dwarf is dwarfs.
    (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:thumbsup: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves:thumbsdown:).
    I was surprised to find no "rooves" in the WRF Collins entry but glad to find others recall/use that form.

    (Wharf, on the other hand made the transition from wharfs to wharves quite some time ago - pre-Tolkien even :eek: )
     
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