Why are there no “fishes” in English?
Because, etymologically, individuality among fish was not especially valued.
First, there are, indeed, “fishes” in English. The distinction - which most English-speakers aren’t familiar with - is that “fishes” refers specifically to multiple species of fish, whereas “fish” on its own just means “fish”, singular or plural, in general. One that people are familiar with is “cheeses” (several kinds) vs. “cheese” (generic plural). It also holds true for “fruit”, “bread”, “spice”, and several other foods.
There is a two-part rule for words with the same singular and plural forms:
- they are typically found in groups
- thinking of them in terms of individuals isn’t, or historically wasn’t, important
“Fish” is an obvious one:
- they typically appear in flocks
- since they live in herds, and are only directly important to humans as food, we never needed to think of them as individuals
Accordingly, their singular and plural forms are the same. This goes for foods (there’s another one!) as well: cheese, fruit, bread, and spice are typically in barrels, ears, bushels, piles, etc., so their individuality need not be regarded as too important.
Lots of other animals fit in the same category: sheep are meat - and wool-bearing animals, so they’re thought of in terms of schools of sheep without regard to the singular sheep; shrimp, too, float along, are caught, and are consumed in gaggles. Accordingly, their singular and plural forms are the same.
Other examples include:
- Elk, which migrate and are hunted in swarms; their individuality is unimportant enough that there is no such thing as “elks”.
- Moose, distantly related to elk, fulfill a similar role in North America; hence, you have a kaleidoscope of moose, not of “ ”.
- Swine, since supplanted by “pigs”, are like sheep: the pride of swine was more important than a swine by itself.
- Salmon, as fish, are found and caught in flocks, so you hear people refer to “a murder of salmon”, not a murder of “salmons”.
(This last point applies to many fishes: halibut, cod, bass, trout, carp, pike, and perch are all the same in singular and plural.)
This information was taken from Quora. Click here to view the original post.
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