I was restocking the postcards this afternoon when a middle-aged couple approached me.
“Do you work here,” she asked.
“Is English your home language?” he asked
“How do you spell the plural of dwarf?” they asked.
“D-w-a-r-f?” I said. They nodded, “I’d spell it… D-w-a-r-v-e-s.”
“See?” she said. No I didn’t see.
He took out his iPhone and showed me, “It’s spelled dwarfs,”
“You owe me a chocolate,” she said
“Wait a minute. Look here,” he said, “It’s also spelled dwarves.”
Rimma and Alex were Russians who spoke five languages. I thought I spoke English.
According to Merriam-Webster’s on Line Dictionary both spellings are correct
Main Entry: 1dwarf
Inflected Form(s): plural dwarfs \ˈdwȯrfs\ also dwarves \ˈdwȯrvz\
Wikipedia says that many nouns ending in /f/ or /θ/ retain the voiceless consonant:
- moth moths
- proof proofs
Some can do either:
- dwarf – dwarfs/dwarves
- hoof – hoofs/hooves
Note: For dwarf, the common form of the plural was dwarfs—as, for example, in Walt Disney‘s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs—until J. R. R. Tolkienpopularized dwarves; he intended the changed spelling to differentiate the “dwarf” fantasy race in his novels from the cuter and simpler beings common in fairy tales, but his usage has since spread.
How do you spell it?