Roof
Posted: 15 October 2013 03:11 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Even though I always pronounce the plural as rooves I’ve always spelt it as roofs. Checking the written plural rooves with OED and looking at the cites it seems to have had an on again off again sort of life.

The historic plural form with a voiced consonant /v/ is superseded in the early 17th cent. in standard usage by the analogical form with f (already attested, at least as a spelling, in the 15th cent.); rooves appears sporadically in the 19th cent., but remains relatively unusual in print until the later 20th cent., and is treated as nonstandard or regional (or is passed over in silence) by many 20th cent. grammars and usage guides. Compare:

1773 Johnson Dict. Eng. Lang. (ed. 4) at roof, In the plural Sidney has rooves; now obsolete.
1850 R. G. Latham Gram. Eng. Lang. for Comm. Schools iii. 78 The practice is now divided; some saying hoofs, roofs, other [sic] saying hooves, rooves.
1921 H. L. Mencken Amer. Lang. (rev. ed.) vii. 219 Rooves seems to be extinct in the written speech as the plural of roof, but it certainly survives in spoken American.
1926 H. W. Fowler Mod. Eng. Usage 687/2 Roof. No v forms.

I find the “remains relatively unusual in print until the later 20th cent.” intriguing. Is it common in States? I can’t recall seeing rooves in the UK, although one hears the pronunciation all the time.

OED also mentions the pronunciation /rʊf/ for the singular. In the U.S., a short-vowel pronunciation /rʊf/ is recorded by Dict. Amer. Regional Eng. chiefly from New England and the Upper Midwest Anyone on the board pronounce it thus (I remember Doc saying he’s from the Midwest).

BTW I always spell the plural of hoof as hooves. Go figure.

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Posted: 15 October 2013 06:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I can’t recall seeing rooves in the UK, although one hears the pronunciation all the time.

Change UK to US and this sentence works for me!

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Posted: 15 October 2013 06:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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works for me as well!

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Posted: 15 October 2013 08:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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FWIW, I’ve always spelled it and pronounced it “roofs.” I believe both pronunciations are fairly common in the US (and I’m not sure which is more common), but I can’t recall seeing “rooves” in written form before reading this post.

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Posted: 16 October 2013 01:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I often enough say “rooves”, leading to other Australians correcting me. I am aware it is non-standard and probably when writing I would use “roofs” but somehow the speaking parts of my brain aren’t buying it.

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Posted: 17 October 2013 07:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I’ve never heard “rooves”, nor have I ever seen that usage in print, and I admit I find it oddly jarring; yet I have both heard and seen “hooves”, and not had the same uncomfortable feeling about that --- though I would say, and write, “hoofs” if the occasion arose. Totally irrational. My dictionary sources say that both words derive from Old English. 

Why should usage be rational? —I ask myself. The answer I get is: dunno.

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Posted: 17 October 2013 08:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard “rooves” but I’m not sure I would notice if I did.  I can easily imagine it slipping under my mental radar, so to speak.  On the other hand, in print it jars the eye.

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Posted: 17 October 2013 09:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I grew up saying “rooves” here in California. The other way, “roofs,” seems a little odd but not totally foreign. Typically the word for me would take an “oo” as in food or sooth and not as in book, took, or look. I’ve heard plenty of roofers say it with a really short “u” as in “put.” The dichotomy seems to follow the long u and short u pronunciations of “hoof.”

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Posted: 18 October 2013 12:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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aldi, I’m not sure what I say - probably “roofs”, though I might slip in “rooves” now and again, or maybe something inbetween to cover all the bases*.

*gratuitous and unintentional pun

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Posted: 18 October 2013 02:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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What would have been the declension of the masculine hrōf?  The word for hoof, hōf, was neuter.  Would that explain why the plural of hoof is uncontroversially hooves but the plural of roof is not rooves?

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Posted: 18 October 2013 03:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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The Old English hof, meaning hoof, is masculine. Hof meaning house or court is neuter. The nominative and accusative plural of hrof or hof (hoof) is hrofas/hofas.

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Posted: 18 October 2013 06:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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The softening of the consonant in the plural of roof seems analogous to the softening of the s in the plural of house, ie houzes (I’m assuming that thus holds good in the US too). I wondered if there were any more words with s changing to a z sound in the plural but OED spared me a fruitless quest.

The plural form houses ( Brit. /haʊzᵻz/ , U.S. /haʊzəz/ ) is the only current example of a distinct plural form preserving the voicing of intervocalic s in standard English (for an example showing the preservation of the voicing of a different fricative, compare wives , plural of wife n.), whereas the singular reflects the word-final voiceless fricative of the nominative and accusative singular (compare Middle English housse , houce , etc.).

I then began musing on the question, “why not plural hice?”, but I swear I heard my late mother’s voice from above, “Because it isn’t, that’s why!”

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