Fake Latin plural . . .

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sun May 21 15:59:27 UTC 2006


Odd that we have "hippo" (and "rhino" and even "dino") but no "octo."

  JL

Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Wilson Gray
Subject: Re: Fake Latin plural . . .
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

'Tain't strange to me, Jon. People can pluralize "hippopotamus" as they
please, but I gotta go with "octopus(s)es" or even "octopodes." But I've
never been able to get ready for the pseudo-learned "octopi," as though the
word was
from non-existent Latin "octopus," instead of from Greek "oktopous." I
realize that there must be tens of thousands, if not more, of Learned-Latin
words that would have been sheer gibberish to Cicero. But, FWIW, unless you
really know the Greek and the Latin forms, I feel that you should simply us=
e
the appropriate English plural.

[Uh, wasn't I one of those who voted against the airing of pet peeves, when
that subject came up a while back, my reasoning being that the only person
who would be interested would be that person for whom a particular usage wa=
s
a pet peeve? Oh, well. Nobody's perfect.]

-Wilson


On 5/20/06, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Jonathan Lighter
> Subject: Re: Fake Latin plural . . .
>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------=
------
>
> Strange as it may seem, I clearly recall a brief period when the "real
> plural" of _hippopotamus_ and _octopus_ was a point of discussion in my
> public elementary school. This was about 1955 or 1956. (I first heard t=
he
> "stewardus" joke around 1960.)
>
> Could it be that Berman - a frequent guest on _The Ed Sullivan Show_,
> IIRC - was chiefly responsible for the enduring madness ? Not many peopl=
e
> were likely to make the "stewardess/ -us/ -i" connection ab nihilo.
>
> JL
>
> Wilson Gray wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Wilson Gray
> Subject: Re: Fake Latin plural . . .
>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------=
------
>
> A bit of history for those who were still only a smile on the face of
> their
> (grand)fathers during the relevant time period.
>
> In the spring of 1955, I attended the Third(?) Annual Rhythm-and-Blues
> Show=3D
> ,
> a kind of traveling circus of mainly-black (that year's headliner was
> gag-me-with-a-spoon Bill Haley, one of several white men who invented
> the term, "rock-and-roll," and the Comets)
> talent.
>
> The show's closer was a stand-up - well, sit-on-a-high-stool - comedian
> named Shelly Berman, now the late-great. Part of Berman's shtik was a bit
> i=3D
> n
> which he made fun of random oddities of the English language, among these
> oddities being the formation of plurals. One of his examples was exactly
> an=3D
> d
> specifically the singular-plural pair, "Stewardess, stewardi."
>
> I found Berman to be so funny that I bought and still own his LP, as far
> as
> I know, the only one that he ever recorded. He eventually turned up again
> a=3D
> s
> a character actor on TV and in the movies.
>
> BTW, it took me perhaps twenty years to get the point of "stewardess,
> stewardi," since it was in no way clear to me how even the most
> ignorant of speakers of English
> could possibly conclude that the singular of a specifically-feminine
> English word was pluralized by
> using the anglicized version of a specifically-masculine Latin plural
> ending. (I eventually understood that "stewardess" was meant to be
> heard as "stewardus."
> It still doesn't strike me as funny.) It was
> the rest of his shtik that had me ROTFLMAO.
>
> -Wilson
>
> -Wilson
>
> On 5/19/06, Barnhart wrote:
> >
> > ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> > -----------------------
> > Sender: American Dialect Society
> > Poster: Barnhart
> > Subject: Re: Fake Latin plural . . .
> >
> >
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------=
=3D
> ------
> >
> > Stewardae is a similar confusion with stewardus for stewardess.
> >
> > Regards,
> > David
> >
> > barnhart at highlands.com
> >
> > American Dialect Society writes:
> >
> >
> > >---------------------- Information from the mail header
> > >-----------------------
> > >Sender: American Dialect Society
> > >Poster: Jesse Sheidlower
> > >Subject: Re: Fake Latin plural . . .
> >
> >
> >------------------------------------------------------------------------=
=3D
> -------
> > >
> > >On Fri, May 19, 2006 at 03:48:36PM +0100, Chris F. Waigl wrote:
> > >>
> > >> I had to make an effort the other day to remain silent when someone
> > >came
> > >> up with "linii" (context: installing two different
> > >flavours of them side
> > >> by side).
> > >
> > >Really. Any idiot knows it's "linices".
> > >
> > >:-)
> > >
> > >Jesse Sheidlower
> > >OED
> > >
> > >------------------------------------------------------------
> > >The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> > >
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> >
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>
>
>
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