A Dictionary Dazzler

Feb 26, 2007

RAY: This puzzler was sent in by Paul Mulick.

As everyone knows, in English, most singular nouns can be made plural by simply adding an 's' or sometimes an 'es' to the end of the word. So, in most cases, every letter of the singular form of the noun will also be found in the plural form. Like, "shoe" and "shoes," or "bum" and "bums." There will be exceptions, of course. For example, the word "matrix" is the plural of matrices. And "bacterium," and "bacteria." But, even in those cases, just about every letter from the singular noun also appears in the plural form.

The other day, I was rereading one of my favorite books, 'The Lord of the Rings,' when an unusual word caught my eye. Of course, this book is full of all kinds of weird words from imaginary languages. But. this particular word is a bona fide English word-- and it's a plural noun. It's an old word and it's not used much nowadays, but you will find it in just about any English dictionary.

The singular form of this word however is a very common English word. But, here's the interesting part. The word in question is a plural noun but it has no letters-- none-- in common with the singular form. Not one single letter.

The question is what are the two words?

Here's a hint: you might guess that both of the words are rather short, or at least one of them is. Because the longer the word is, the better the chances that you would duplicate a letter.
RAY: Here's the answer. The singular word is cow and the plural is kine.

TOM: Kine.

RAY: K-I-N-E. Exactly right. You've probably used that word in a crossword puzzle or two.

TOM: I have.

RAY: Pretty cute, eh?

TOM: Who sent this in?

RAY: Paul Muelich.

TOM: He's got more brains than us.

RAY: So who's our winner anyway?

TOM: Ah, the winner is Darin Greel from Dover, Delaware. And for having his answer selected at random from among all the correct answers that we got too, Darin is going to get a 26-dollar gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division at cartalk.com, with which he can pick up our best-selling Car Talk lackey's T-shirt, fourth edition.

RAY: We have four editions of the lackey T-shirt?

TOM: Yeah. We got so many freeloaders on staff, we had to make four T-shirts to accommodate them all. This one's got a press secretary, Don Beezanozy, and our swimsuit designer, C. Big Beheinz. And many, many more on, many more.

RAY: Anyway we better start laying people off, we're out of cotton.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter