The Octopus Conundrum: Octopuses vs. Octopi vs. Octopodes
A couple of days ago, I had some questions regarding the mighty tentacled beast of our oceans— the octopus. Actually, I was just curious as to what an octopus was, and I found the answer, which was a cephalopod mollusk in the order Octopoda.
But that's not all I came across.
We've all probably wondered about the popular octopoid conundrum of what is the correct plural form of octopus: octopi or octopuses? I sure have, but I've never bothered to look into it. I just always used the one I liked best, which was octopuses.
Turns out I was using the right one.
At least, according to my trusty New Oxford American Dictionary on my MacBook Pro. You know, that Dictionary application no one knows about.
Firstly, it states:
ORIGIN mid 18th cent.: from Greek oktopous (see also Octopoda).
Then, under that: Photo by neptunecanada
USAGE The standard English plural of octopus is octopuses. However, the word octopus comes from Greek, and the Greek plural form is octopodes ( |äk'täp??dez|). Modern usage of octopodes is so infrequent that many people mistakenly create the erroneous plural form octopi, formed according to rules for Latin plurals.
But then I wondered what variations of the alien-like sea dweller were in the Scrabble Dictionary.
OCTOPOD [12 pts], (OCTOPODS)
any of an order of eight-armed mollusks
OCTOPUS [11 pts], (OCTOPUSES/OCTOPI/OCTOPODES)
a nocturnal octopod
Interesting that it does not include the adjective, octopoid. Not that I care, because I've only ever used it in this article.
Photo by Morten Brekkevold
But really, I didn't feel like writing this blog post until I came across a video at Boing Boing, aptly named Great Moments in Pedantry: Octopuses, octopi, octopodes, which was just days after my initial discovery.
It's a video (below) of Kory Stamper, an Associate Editor at Merriam-Webster (publisher of the Scrabble Dictionary) talking about the plural version of octopus. It's an old video, but definitely interesting. Mostly because she states that today, all 3 inflections (octopuses, octopi and octopodes) are correct, which would match the what the Scrabble Dictionary tells us.
So, I guess my favorite choice was not entirely the right one.
But I did find out that people that say "octopi" call us people that say "octopuses" ignorant slobs.
I never thought of myself as a slob.