Ever since we did our first episode on Science Vs Guns, there has been a raging debate online… what is the plural of octopus? Octopi? Octopuses? Octopodes?
We staked our flag for octopuses. But a few grammar enthusiasts have hit back, saying no! It’s octopodes!
So, what is the answer?
When it comes to grammar there are many opinions, but then… there’s the dictionary. We tracked down the Head of US Dictionaries at Oxford University Press to settle this once and for all.
We also heard back from Prof. Steven Pinker at Harvard, Prof. Mary Dalrymple at Oxford and Prof. Paul Cartledge at Cambridge and they all agreed; the preferred term is OCTOPUSES.
Steven Pinker at Harvard had this to say:
“Yes, octopodes is a somewhat pretentious suggestion of people who know some Greek. It’s listed in Merriam-Webster, though not in American Heritage or Encarta. Octopi has become common enough that it is listed as well, though it makes little sense, since the –us in octopus is not a Latin noun ending but rather a part of the Greek word pous meaning “foot.” So we can’t push back the misanalysed octopi, but the most sensible plural is octopuses.”
So there you have it. Octopodes as the plural of octopus… doesn’t really have legs.