Thursday, 15 July 2010

Odd-numbered organs and octopi

I posted a few weeks ago to the effect that the bee might be the only creature with an odd number (greater than one) of organs, i.e. three eyes (turns out it's actually five, of two different sorts - thanks Sue!).

I now find, courtesy of Paul the World Cup predictor, that an octopus has three hearts.  How about that for over-redundancy?  Even BP didn't think of putting in more than one blow-out preventer.  They do, however, meet the second definition of octopus in my beloved dictionary, which is "a person or organisation with widespread influence".

Chambers usually avoids value judgements, as dictionaries should, so isn't explicit about the nature of the "widespread influence" in question; but I imagine I can see or hear the raised eyebrow and the sniff.  You wouldn't call BP an octopus as a compliment, would you?  Actually, it's a slight - BP doesn't have even one heart.

Sadly, your average octopus apparently lives for only three to five years, despite all those hearts (it must be exhausting keeping all those tentacles going, though).  This analogy is starting to wear a bit thin, isn't it?  So, to close on a lighter note, a prize to the first to answer this question: "what's the plural of octopus?"


  1. "The term octopus, pronounced /ˈɒktəpʊs/, is from Greek ὀκτάπους (oktapous), "eight-footed", with plural forms: octopuses /ˈɒktəpʊsɪz/, octopi /ˈɒktəpaɪ/, or octopodes /ɒkˈtɒpədiːz/. Currently, octopuses is the most common form in both the US and the UK; octopodes is rare, and octopi is often objectionable." (why? it's simply an octopus with 3.14 and a bit tentacles)
    So I win & claim the unstipulated prize. A prize for the best prize stipulation.

  2. I don't think it's us humans who object to the term 'octopi' - it's the octopuses themselves. After all they are supposed to be the most intelligent of all invertebrates!

  3. Ah, did I not mention that consultation of reference works was barred? I don't hand out prizes for being able to work Wikipedia. Sorry.
    As regards 'octopi', it could be held to be 'objectionable' (Chambers brusquely dismisses it as 'wrong'), I suppose, if you pronounced it 'octopee' and were very prudish. (In fact, as we all know, this has nothing to do with cephalopods, but refers to what happens after the eighth pint.)
    Of course, you missed the point that the prize was offered to the first to answer the question 'what's the plural of octopus?' I didn't stipulate that the answer had to be correct. You could have said anything. OctoBeePee?

  4. So I'm the winner then, with my logical answer - a gathering of pussies is a clowder so a gathering of octopuses must be an OCTOCLOWDER!