928: Mimic Octopus

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Mimic Octopus
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.
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.

Explanation

Let's get this out of the way before it starts a flame war on here: according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary online that octopi, octopuses, and octopodes (only if you are English) are all the correct plural of octopus. It is a well put together video.

So, this comic is a reference to a typical fish and sea-life identification chart. Like this or the US Air Force ID chart parody. So, it's basically a parody of a parody referencing the mimic octopus which, as the name implies, is able to mimic other animals.

The Orson Scott Card novel Lost Boys is (from Publisher's Weekly): "A withdrawn eight-year-old in a troubled family invents imaginary friends who bear the names of missing children in this absorbing thriller." (The relevant section, if you are curious, is on Google Books.)

Transcript

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."]


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Discussion

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)

"When under attack, some octopuses can perform arm autotomy, in a similar manner to the way skinks and other lizards detach their tails. The crawling arm serves as a distraction to would-be predators. Such severed arms remain sensitive to stimuli and move away from unpleasant sensations.[23]"[1] 173.245.48.113 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Fine, but in the SCUBA diver depiction, would it really need to rip parts out of itself to mimic bubbles? I don't think that that is quite necessary. 108.162.241.131 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
It could also hypothetically mimic bubbles by *actually blowing bubbles*. (No word on how it does this.) 108.162.216.30 02:36, 2 January 2016 (UTC)Anon
Simple: This is a 2D cut-out of the octopus mimicking the fishes or the scuba in 3D. It assumes a very complex figure, so that in the cut-out we only see the 2D pictures above. 162.158.83.144 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

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)

Has anyone checked to see if the title text is true? Whether it is or not, this should be added to the description. 108.162.212.18 11:53, 16 October 2015 (UTC)

What exactly is the pun here? 199.27.133.78 00:53, 13 July 2016 (UTC)

I don't know, either!?! "Too many octopuses"??? 108.162.237.172 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I had a very different impression of this comic when I first read it. I had never heard of a mimic octopus, and I assumed that the comic was making fun of calling a food dish "octopus" when it really wasn't. As in, a restaurant might feed you whatever they caught in a net and call it octopus, no matter how absurd it was. And if they ever did catch an octopus, they split it in two. Very cynical, but not nearly as cool. 108.162.246.115 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I believe the third fish silhouette is actually a grouper, not a tuna. Sorry, Charlie.--162.158.74.237 03:26, 18 February 2017 (UTC)

I am not getting the "pun" of two mimic octopuses. Could anyone elaborate a little bit more? I never thought it as a pun, but rather implying that a mimic octopus, or any creature mirroring what it see, can only reveal its natural form by mimicking other mimic octopus. Though I think it makes sense, this is a bit different from other topics in xkcd, so I doubt it. 12:37, 22 August 2017 (UTC)

I agree with the above comment. Where's the "pun"? "Two Mimic Octopuses" doesn't sound like any other phrase. Maybe, at a stretch, "too many octopuses"? Moreover I don't think "… which is the pun of this comic" makes sense in any way. Comics don't all have puns, and comics with puns aren't limited to one. Perhaps it's a typo for "the point of this comic" or something? I'm going to remove that clause in 24 hours unless someone comes up with a convincing justification. AmbroseChapel (talk) 02:05, 13 September 2017 (UTC)

I am surprised that nobody mentioned the very similar mock identification charts such as this one or that one. Given the silhoutetted style of Randall's drawing, I'm pretty sure he had one or both in mind. 141.101.105.204 15:36, 19 October 2017 (UTC)

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