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Welcome to issue #47  of  Words Matter , our bi-weekly newsletter .  Please feel free to share with a friend! 
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A Word Argument

A student recently came up after class to ask if I could settle a word argument she had been having  with her brother.  He had insisted that the correct plural of octopus was octopuses, believing  that modern English plurals should look like, well, English.

Buses ("the tour buses were lined up") or minuses and pluses ("we weighed the pluses and minuses") and thus octopuses. She on the other hand  argued in favor of octopi,  feeling that words borrowed from Latin should retain their Latin plurals: alumni (of a school)  or stimuli (more than one stimulus) and thus octopi.

I asked her if she understood what people meant if they said, "I saw two octopuses at the aquarium", and if she thought she'd be understood if she said, "I saw three octopi at the aquarium".  She agreed that both forms would be understood.  "But which one was really right?" she insisted.

English makes plurals in lots of different ways.  One child two children.  One index, two indices.  One foot, two feet.  One crisis, two crises.  You'll think of many other examples as you go through your day. 
For some such words, there is consensus (no one would say childs or oxes, for example), but English has indexes alongside indices and crisises alongside crisesSimilarly, the usage of both cactuses and cacti, funguses and fungi, or nucleuses and nuclei get along just fine in unargued coexistence. 
And so it is, I told her, (far be it from me to egg on discord among siblings) with the plurals octopuses and octopi.
But just between you and me, what  is "really" the correct plural?  Since octopus is from Greek roots, not Latin or native English, to be technical, the proper plural is octopodes.  Similarly, one platypus, two platypodes.  And by the way, it's one iris two irides.  But then you might not be understood, so best advice: use the form that gets your meaning across. --R.D. "Doc" Larrick 

This brief student video comes directly from WordBuildonLine Elements Level 3 and illustrates the culmination of the study of prefixes and suffixes! 

The root CID
The root CID

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