Platypus, Octopus, Alumnus, Plus Rhymes Galore
There was a heated debate a few years ago when my scout patrol wanted to name ourselves the A.P.O.S. – Atlantean (as in from Atlantis) Platypuses of Stench. (Don’t ask.) The debate was over whether the correct plural of platypus was platypuses or platypi.
We never did find out – and I myself never knew which form to use. Which one is right?
Recently, I came across a Wikipedia page about plural forms of words ending in -us. I immediately read the section on platypus, and then the one on octopus as well. Then I remembered the name tags at every TALONS event that read “ALUMNI”.
First of all, platypus is an etymologically Greek word, so the Latin plural -i for platypi is wrong. The Greek plural would be platypodes, but that’s really uncommon. So, everyone tends to say platypuses or platypus as the plural. And these are considered ‘right’.
Second, octopus is also etymologically Greek. So, the common plural octopi is wrong as well. The correct, though rare, plural is octopodes. (I really want to find an excuse to use ‘octopodes’ in conversation.) A Dictionary of Modern English Usage says that octopuses is right, octopi is ‘misconceived’, and octopodes is simply pedantic. But pedantic is what I do best.
Third, alumni is the plural form of the word. I noticed that the TALONS nametags read alumni, and I remembered reading something about the word alumnus once. Looking it up, I discovered the following: alumnus is the masculine singular, alumna is the feminine singular, alumnae is the feminine plural and alumni is the masculine or mixed plural.
Example: Next year, I will be an alumna. My brother is already an alumnus. The grade 10 girls will be alumnae. All the grade tens will be alumni next year.
Now, I know it’s unlikely that we will print out separate nametags for the male/female alumni, but I noticed that it is wrong. I will personally change my name tags to alumna next year.
Now, onto the rhymes. As this is my little language-rant blog post, I wanted to include some English words without rhymes, and some words that have obscure rhymes that nobody ever knew about.
First, a perfect rhyme is when the sounds match exactly from the stressed syllable onwards. Anything close is called a slant rhyme.
Now, here are some words that most people think don’t have perfect rhymes. Do you know of any rhymes for them?
Here are their (obscure) rhymes :
Hurkle, to pull on one’s limbs
Blorenge, a hill in Wales
Curple, the hindquarters of a horse or donkey or hirple, to walk with a limp
Chilver, a female lamb
Naos, the inner chamber of a temple
(Again, I need an excuse to use any of these in regular conversation.)
Now, here are some words (but by no means all of them) with no perfect rhymes:
Angst, oblige, twelfth, angel, olive, nothing, monster, luggage, citizen, dangerous, necessary.
And now, your head is just a little bit fuller of useless knowledge. You’re welcome.