for writers and readers….

Test your knowledge of English…and weep

octopus in a panWhich of the following is the “correct” plural of octopus?  Which are acceptable variants?  Which are “wrong”?

  • octopuses

  • octopi

  • octopodes

This old blog (the original post was written five years ago which is practically ancient history in blogging terms) maintains that the English-speaking world is divided into about five categories of people:

  1. People who think octopuses is best because it comes naturally, like children think foots is an acceptable plural of foot, instead of feet.

  2. People who like octopuses because it sounds like the Bond film Octopussy.

  3. People who use octopi because it seems like the way we deal with words in -us, like alumnus/alumni.

  4. People who use octopodes because they think it has a better historical basis (to be explained).

  5. People who think octopodes sounds silly and pedantic, and octopi is wrong, so they settle on octopuses.  (Many dictionary and style guides go this route.)

The answer will surprise you and then it gets complicated, very complicated.  To find out visit Will the real plural for Octopus please stand up.  The explanation feels like something scratching inside your skull, but that’s probably just me.

photo credit: pot o’ suckers via photopin (license)

8 comments on “Test your knowledge of English…and weep

  1. The Story Reading Ape
    May 16, 2015

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Get your paper tissues out 😀

  2. Let's CUT the Crap!
    May 16, 2015

    This sure IS complicated. Who would have thought? Not me. 🙂

  3. Jack Eason
    May 16, 2015

    Don’t you just love how complicated our language is – most of it totally unecessary!

  4. TermiteWriter
    May 16, 2015

    Great article! Octopuses it is!

  5. Annette Rochelle Aben
    May 16, 2015

    After reading that verbose original, I no longer care what the correct word is to identify more than one octopus! 🙂

  6. Michelle R. Eastman
    May 16, 2015

    Reading the comment feed on the original post was hilarious. The grammar police came after the author hard. It’s not often one encounters Trolls with such a tight grip on the English language.

  7. A Teenage Poet
    May 16, 2015

    Thank you for sharing this! So interesting.

  8. bridget whelan
    May 19, 2015

    Sorry I couldn’t reply before but glad you like the original post. It was so good it deserved to be re-circulated.

    Just to prove that everything is connected I have just returned from a marvelous writing residency in Portugal, a country I have never visited before and a language I do not know. I was struggling with a menu at a local bar but after 10 minutes with my guide book I was feeling quietly confident and ordered duck salad. What arrived looked exactly the same as the picture above…and did I remember the correct plural? No, I did not. But I shall never forget the Portuguese for baby octupus.

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This entry was posted on May 16, 2015 by in Did you know... and tagged , , , , .


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