Definition: The plural of ‘beef’.
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.