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What makes these two words so different that 'man' is changed to 'men', but 'German' is changed to 'Germans'?

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We humen like to bend rules and be creative. –  progo Apr 19 '13 at 9:54
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The answer to "should English be consistent in spelling?" is quite different to the answer to "is English consistent in spelling?"... –  Wooble Apr 19 '13 at 11:40
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Yeah, and since the plural of tooth is teeth, I suppose the plural of booth should have been beeth. And since we say that the teacher taught, we must also say that the preacher praught. That was a light-hearted way of saying the same thing as @progo's comment : We sure like to bend rules and be creative. Words have all sorts of reasons to be in their present form. Nowadays, I hear that people are facebook-ing (keeping in contact through facebook), kik-ing (messaging on kik) and SMS-ing (sending a text message in your mobile phone) each other :-) –  rktcool Apr 19 '13 at 12:25
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The British invasion by the Romen was followed up by waves of alien hordes, culminating in the conquest of the Normen. –  tchrist Apr 19 '13 at 13:10
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If people from Poland are called Poles, why aren't people from Holland called Holes? :) –  grep Apr 19 '13 at 14:45
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2 Answers 2

up vote 108 down vote accepted

German is from the Latin word germani; unlike the similar-looking demonyms Englishman and Frenchman, it is etymologically unrelated to the word man and does not form a plural the same way.

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This is correct. It is nothing more than a coincidence that these two words happen to use the same set of three letters. (I would merely mention that the Latin name of Germany was Germania, not germani). –  John M. Landsberg Apr 19 '13 at 7:04
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@JohnM.Landsberg That's correct: Germania is the land, germani is the people. –  Bradd Szonye Apr 19 '13 at 7:05
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Remarkable. Out of all the words ending in –man at litscape.com/word_tools/ends_with.php it seems that only German and I suggest, caiman, shaman, and talisman don’t form a plural –men. –  Avrohom Yitzchok Apr 19 '13 at 13:16
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@AvrohomYitzchok: See also :) –  minitech Apr 19 '13 at 13:45
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@AvrohomYitzchok afikoman, Bildungsroman, ceriman, daman, desman, dhaman, dolman, firman, Haman, hetman, human, Künstlerroman, leman, liman, Mussulman, Naman, Norman, Oklahoman, ottoman, Ottoman, Panaman, Pullman, pygman, Quartodeciman, Roman, saman, talisman, Tallman, terjiman, Tolman, truchman, Turcoman, Turkman. –  tchrist Apr 19 '13 at 14:04
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Another way of saying it- a man from France is called a Frenchman, and many of them are referred to collectively as FrenchMEN. A man from Germany (we see here with the "y" that "man" is included as a coincidence- you can't take it as "many from Ger" either...) would be called a Germanman and many would be Germanmen. I think they might have said it back in WWII, but I could be wrong.

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If that were the case, I would have expected those terms to have turned up in print at some point. Google Ngram –  Andrew Leach Apr 20 '13 at 10:06
    
It could also be Germanyman by analogy with Chinaman, but I doubt that either term saw actual usage. –  Bradd Szonye Apr 20 '13 at 12:34
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protected by RegDwigнt Apr 19 '13 at 16:58

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