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You learn something new every day...

I am just setting myself up for my_tallest to say, in a disparaging tone, "What? You didn't know that?"...

But apparently, while the most frequently-used plural of "octopus" in American English is "octopuses", the "correct" plural form is not "octopi", but rather "octopodes", pronounced "ak-TO-po-dees". (Because "octopus" is from the Greek, you see; the -i ending would be correct if it were derived from Latin.) Of course, usage of "octopodes" is so rare as to be non-existant. Still, it seems rather wonderful, and I hope to remember to use it someday should I ever have the occasion to do so.

(This and other fun language-usage stuff can be found in the Word Court Archives, which I discovered today and got a kick out of starting to read through.)


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 7th, 2007 10:45 pm (UTC)
That is very cool. You've reminded me that the next time you're up this-a-way I should show you the antique book about colloquialisms that belonged to my grandfather.
Dec. 7th, 2007 10:54 pm (UTC)
CUTTLEFISH! I love cuttlefish. And octopodes.
Dec. 7th, 2007 10:55 pm (UTC)
ITA with jenlev, that is *way* cool. I'd always wrongly assumed it came from the Latin, but now you mention it, it makes sense that it's from the Greek.

What an excellent plural *g* I only hope I ever have the chance to use it :)
Dec. 7th, 2007 11:36 pm (UTC)
I have to say, it's a cool piece of trivia, but in terms of actual conversation, "octopodes" is so unknown I'd feel pretty pedantic using it, unless I was in some academic setting or something.
Dec. 8th, 2007 06:01 pm (UTC)
Or just hanging out with us!
Dec. 8th, 2007 11:22 pm (UTC)
Oh sure. We don't count as normal conversation. :p
Dec. 9th, 2007 12:04 am (UTC)
my_tallest to say, in a disparaging tone

Hey, there's a reason my home is not on the range, but is where the skies are cloudy all day.

I don't care if people pluralize "pous" as "pi", instead of "podes". I had to leave Ancient Greek after two trimesters; it was too hard for a high schooler also taking Latin. I'm sure the common Roman-types did that kind of thing all the time, driving the Greeks crazy... but too bad, they conquered Greece, and most of those Greeks were servant/slave tutors. I bet no one corrected Caesar when he said "octopi."

There is a "feet" word from the Greek in English: antipodes, which English kept in the plural, I guess to show that there's always a pair of antipodal points across the Earth from each other. And note that we call the individuals of the pairs an "antipodal point", instead of an "antipus," because we have more sense than that. What worries me about this is that Greek (and this is one of the reasons I hightailed it out of Mr. Persuitti's class) has a *dual* number (singular, dual, plural) for a lot of nouns, especially ones that come in pairs. So "antipodes", being the proper plural, instead of the dual, probably isn't right either, unless you're talking about a couple of pairs of antipuses.
Dec. 14th, 2007 02:28 am (UTC)
So can you help me with a different word? I've been wondering what the correct plural is for abacus. Is it abacuses, abaci, or something else.
Dec. 14th, 2007 02:43 pm (UTC)
Male Answer Syndrome!
According to OED, it's again from the Greek, roughly transliterated: abax (alpha-beta-alpha-xi), meaning board, slab, and then by extension in the Latin to calculating table. Searches across the Perseus Project Latin texts turn up abacus, -i as both slab, board, calculating table, and top of a pillar. OED lists 1686 as the first reference for the word used in context as the now proper meaning of a Chinese-style calculating board, and hey, that's in Harvard time recent. But it still comes from a correct, second declension Latin word of ancient-enough heritage, so the plural of abacus would be abaci. And in fact, OED says it's abaci. But I bet you could still get away with abacuses. But don't go with abaxes, the Greek plural, unless you're talking about slabs.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )