Asides

I’m an alumni

“I’m an alumni.”

Really? How many of them are you? What was it like being a students?

The forms of this word don’t really have to be difficult. Of course, you could simplify everything and say “one alum, two alums,” but that’s cutting corners. And if you want to sound like an ignoramus, try using “one alum, two alum.”

But here are the true-to-Latin forms:

Masculine
(or gender neutral)
Feminine
Singular Alumnus Alumna
Plural Alumni Alumnae

Of course, you are free to do whatever you wish. If you freestyle, though: others might believe that you are no alumnus/alumna from anywhere.


Image source: http://leedsunicareers.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/flickr-4647211575-hd.jpg

Why do we shake our heads to mean ‘no’

Shaking one’s head left and right is understood as the sign for “no” in most human civilizations. There are a few exceptions where this is not the case (including some cultures in Southeastern Europe) but by and large, shaking one’s head means “no”.

Why?

If you spend time around babies, you might be able to intuit the answer.

Babies’ lives are pretty simple: almost everything they do revolves around eating, sleeping, and pooping. The second and third they can do at their own leisure, but eating requires communication to the caregiver about when to start and when to stop.

When the baby wants to refuse food, what does it do? The baby turns its head from side to side. It is this natural motion that has become near-universal for humans to show refusal or disagreement.

The More You Know


Image source: http://www.reflux.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Feed-refusing-pic.jpg

Plural of the word ‘octopus’

What’s the plural form of the word ‘octopus?’ Many would respond with “Ah, I know! It’s not octopuses… it’s octopi, right?!”

Not really, no.

Octopus is formed from the Greek words ὀκτώ ‘okto’ eight and πούς ‘pous’ foot. In accordance with Greek rules, it should be pluralized as octopodes.

Some people assume incorrectly that it is a Latin word (like stimulus or cactus) and should therefore take the Latin 2nd declension plural octopi (analogous to stimuli and cacti). Since this is based off a bad assumption, most prescriptive dictionaries do not accept ‘octopi’ as a valid form.

According to English rules, it should pluralize to octopuses, which is equally acceptable as octopodes according to prescriptivists. Octopuses is more common than octopodes in actual English usage.

You can verify the above this using the Online Etymology Dictionary (or any reputable source, for that matter).


Image credit: http://marthamouse.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/octopus-group-photo.jpg