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Definition: The plural of ‘beef’.

Pronunciation: -Beev-s

Origin: Entered Middle-English c. 1250 from the old French boef. Based on the Latin bovem.

Why this word?

Beef is a very common word – and a nicer word than Cow-meat! However, not many people realize that it has a plural – mainly because when we use it, we refer only to one type of beef.

Indeed, because we tend to encounter it only as a food, we do not think of it as a wider commodity. In the discipline of ethno-methodology, it was noted that the plural of ‘shark’ was always ‘sharks’ – until, that is, it began to appear on the menus in California. Then when talking about the food, it became, simply, ‘shark’ – despite the fact that the restaurants probably sold more than one individual shark!

How and when to use this word in a sentence:

I once splashed out on a slider sampler in a steakhouse in Minneapolis. There was a Kobe beef slider, an Angus Beef slider and a Hereford Beef slider. Had I known of the existence of the word ‘Beeves’ at the time, I would have been quite entitled to order such. More than one type of beef = beeves.

The meat from the Ox? That’s beef. The meat from the Bull? Why, we call that beef, too. The chance to use the word beeves is more a sign of the type of eater you are. If you order the 12 ounce steak you’re just a big ol’ eater. If you order the Porterhouse or the New York Steak you’re a connoisseur. If, however you order the selection of beeves, you, my friend, are a fully-fledged gourmand. Bring on the heart attack.


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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