Things That Are Neat: Octopuses!

baby octopus
baby octopus (Photo credit: MelanieAnneMarie)

I know that some people say the proper plural of “octopus” is “octopi“, but I read somewhere that it’s actually a bad Latin construction and is incorrect, though a lot of dictionaries list it as proper anyway. (The whole prescriptive versus descriptive grammar debate which just gets kind of boring.) But I didn’t actually know that “octopuses” was correct, but there you go.  I guess I have to cross “they’ve got a strange plural-form of the word!” off the list of reasons why octopuses are neat, but at least I learned something, and that’s always good.

But that’s kind of a lousy reason to think octopuses are cool since there’s so many real reasons.

Octopus vulgaris

Image via Wikipedia

They’re smart as whips!  I actually saw a show a while ago that listed the world’s smartest animals, which was really interesting (I don’t remember what was number one, but crows were in the top ten, and parrots were around number three, and I found out that parrots can go mad; that’s kind of neat, but also very sad.).  Unfortunately, the octopus only came in at around number eight for reasons that I think are kind of suspect.  One of the tests was whether or not it could recognize itself in a reflection, and the octopus failed.  But, it seems to me that it’d make total sense for an octopus to fail, since where’s it going to see a reflection of itself?  I mean, land animals can see themselves in creeks or whatnot, and get a vague sense of “oh, that’s me!”, but where’s an octopus going to see a mirror?  I figure if they left the mirror with the octopus long enough, it’d probably twig to the whole “it’s me!” thing, but to just spring a mirror on it is totally not fair, and I am thinking the octopus should be raised another point or two.  I mean, I don’t give you something you’ve never seen before and call you stupid because you don’t know how to work it, right?  So, shouldn’t we extend the same courtesy to the octopus?

Still, though, even when they weren’t being railroaded on that show, they were still pretty cool.  I like the ones that can change color to blend in with the sea floor.   I saw this one clip of a octopus that was one of those color-changing type and when it started, it looked like it was just a picture of some rocks, and then the octopus revealed itself and it just looked like it came from nowhere!  It was great!  I kept rolling back the clip to see if I could see the octopus even when I knew it was there, and I couldn’t.  After about a half-hour I was able to see its eye before it changed, but, man.

Squid (I actually looked this up to double check; the proper plural is “squid” or “squids“, which, I guess means that I can’t feel all annoyed by people who use “squids” as the plural (except when referring to different types of squids, since that’s OK) anymore, but I still prefer “squid” for both singular and plural.) are pretty neat too, I have to admit.  Not as cool as octopuses, since octopuses have always struck me as a much friendlier sort of creature.  A man’s best undersea friend, as it were, where squid seem more brutal and angry and vaguely confused.  While I picture octopuses floating around being brilliant and capturing prey with cunning, I picture squid just sort of lumbering around and attacking anything that moves and basically doing the whole undersea-creature-language-equivalent of “Duuuhh… me smash!”.  Though it is kind of cool when giant squid fight sperm whales.  I have to admit that’s really awesome.  But they’re a lot freakier looking than octopuses with their mantles and 10 tentacles and whatnot.  Octopuses are intelligent and elegant.  Squid are large, brutal and stupid.  (I actually don’t know how smart squid are, but they don’t strike me as being particularly bright.)  But it’s much better thinking about a giant squid attacking a sperm whale than it is thinking about an octopus attacking a whale.  Even if it’s a bunch of octopuses.  (Not octopi.)

 

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3 comments

  1. Janet

    Because “octopus” is latinate spelling of a Greek word, I hear, technically, that the plural is “octopodes”.

    You’re welcome.

  2. Rev. Syung Myung Me

    That is true, though I don’t know if that’s accepted in dictionaries. IIRC, the two in dictionaries are “octopuses” and “octopi” (via overwelming usage; take THAT prescriptivists!).

    “Octopodes” is not accepted by Merriam-Webster, however, it’s semi-accepted by the OED.

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