Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Title text: Even if the dictionaries are starting to give in, I refuse to accept 'octopi' as a word mainly because--I'm not making this up--there's a really satisfying climactic scene in the Orson Scott Card horror novel 'Lost Boys' which hinges on it being an incorrect pluralization.
This comic is a parody of fish and sea-life identification charts, referencing the mimic octopus which, as the name implies, is able to mimic other animals.
The Orson Scott Card novel that the title text refers to is Lost Boys: "A withdrawn eight-year-old in a troubled family invents imaginary friends who bear the names of missing children" (Publisher's Weekly). The section the title text is referencing is on Google Books.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "octopi," "octopuses," and "octopodes" (UK English) are all correct plural versions of "octopus."
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- Southeast Asian Sea Life
- Identification Chart
- [There are silhouettes of eight individual fish, a school of fish, a scuba diver, an anemone, a submarine, and an anchor, each labeled "Mimic Octopus." There is also a silhouette of an octopus, labeled "Two Mimic Octopuses."]
How does the mimic octopus manage to mimic multiple fish? Does it split it's own body up or something? Davidy22[talk] 13:30, 8 January 2013 (UTC)
For the record, octopus is from the Greek ὀκτάπους, a compound of ὀκτά (eight) and πούς (foot); πούς is a third declension masculine noun, whose plural is πόδες. Therefore, the etymologically correct plural of octopus should be octopodes, not (as Orson Scott Card suggests) octopoda, since πούς is not a neuter.
- Actually, it would be "octopuses", as it showed up after the regularization of English plurals to a final -s. As the video in the explanation explains, someone in the Victorian Grammarian Era "realized" it was "Latin" and pluralized it as such. This caught on and still haunts us to this day. "Octopdes" was coined around the same time by a more observant someone, who realized it was actually Greek. Personally, I avoid the whole trichotomy by saying "octopods". Unrelated etymologically, but has the same meaning and is unequivocally regular. Anonymous 08:08, 5 December 2013 (UTC)