I made a snappy joke this afternoon about a miracle involving meat loaves and fishes, and it set off a discussion at our kitchen table: what is the plural of meat loaf?
Garner’s Modern American Usage notes that some nouns ending in -f change to -ves to form their plurals (scarf, scarves), while others add an -s (roof, roofs). Garner gives loaves as the plural of loaf. And when we’re speaking of baked goods, loaves sounds just right. But I’m not at all sure that meat loaves sounds right. It sounds, to my ear, exceedingly odd. But then so does meat loafs, though I’ve tried to hear it as comparable to still lifes:
I painted six still lifes and baked six meat loafs.Oaf, by the way, becomes oafs.
Reader, which do you prefer? Meat loafs? Meat loaves? Oafs? Chicken?
[The Oxford English Dictionary seems rather British in its definition of meat loaf: “Minced or chopped meat moulded into the shape of a loaf and cooked; generally eaten cold, in slices. Usu. with qualifying word, as beef loaf, ham loaf, meat loaf, veal loaf.” The Dictionary notes that the entry for loaf “has not yet been fully updated (first published 1903).”]