I remember hearing a story, most likely untrue, very many years ago, when still in school. In this retelling, I’ll allow ‘Mick’ to be the character in chief.
It was the time of the school exams. The teacher had decided to do three tests one after the other this particular afternoon.
Mr. McCarthy told the pupils to take out three clear sheets of paper and on each write their name and the particular test. Mick O’Keeffe followed by Irish and English were quickly added to the first two pages, but then he stopped – unsure, thinking.
Mr McCarthy was writing the questions on the blackboard and Mick was no nearer being convinced.
He knew about the three ‘R’s – reading, riting and rithmetic. Something in the back of his mind told him that there was something about the spelling but he couldn’t be certain.
roof noun (roofs or common in spoken English, but non-standard in writing rooves)
Roofs vs. rooves
Then he remembered first class when big words like rithmetic, matemathics or even mathematics were not used.
Relief at last. Shorter words are much easier.
The words written on that blank page were:
Mick O’Keeffe – SUMBS
I spotted this van on Patrick’s Street yesterday and it immediately reminded me of the story of Mick O’Keeffe. I imagined the thought process when considering what to write on the van.
There was something at the back of his mind that when a word ended in ‘f’, the plural changed the ‘f’ to ‘ve’. He remembered the example of ‘hoof’ and ‘hooves’.
On that basis, it should be ‘Rooves’ but that didn’t look exactly perfect. Neither did ‘roofs’ because the ‘v’ was too prominent in the brain.
Just like Mick, Eureka struck with the idea to introduce an apostrophe – sure, no one will know the difference.
Wrong – there is at least one looking for flying apostrophes!!