[Old Board Archive]: How do you say 'octopus' in...


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Site Owner
May 30, 2000
Some of you may remember this classic thread from the "old" message board system (pre-November 2002). Enjoy!

-- tonmo


How do you say 'octopus' in... |tintenfisch|
someone expressed interest in this question on another thread, so here's the answer in all the languages i've collected to date:

how do you say 'octopus' in...

german: der tintenfisch ('ink fish'), die krake
norwegian and swedish: et blekksprut ('ink-spitter')
maori: wheka
tongan: feke
spanish: el pulpo
italian: il polipo
korean: ba-yü
french: la pieuvre
latin: octopus (no kidding!)
japanese: tako
finnish: mustekala
russian: osminog (a combination of the words 'eight legs')
czech and slovak: chobot nece ('trunk animal')
american sign language: make on 'o' shape with your right hand (four fingers curved, tips together with the tip of the thumb), rest your right thumb-knuckle on the back of your left hand, point your four left-hand fingers down and wiggle them.

Re: How do you say 'octopus' in... |tonmo|
This is a great list, thanks!

Regarding the Latin term... hmm! I've read from a number of sources that it's not actually a Latin word, but an "English" word (whatever that means). Hence the assertion that the proper plural usage is "octopuses" as opposed to "octopi" (although both are generally accepted). Have a look at the following link. Doesn't seem to help the matter, actually. What's "New Latin"?


Re: How do you say 'octopus' in... |rudiger|
Actually I thought that the word octopus is greek. If it were latin the plural would be octopi. But the root is greek so its octopuses in plural.

Re: How do you say 'octopus' in... |arcanacoelestia|
Well, I recently finished the 10-lesson ELNA postal course in Esperanto, so just for fun I've been looking through the dictionary for ceph-related words. Here are some, with pronunciations:

cephalopod = cefalopodo (tseh-fah-loh-POH-doh)
octopus = polpo (POHL-poh)
squid = loligo (loh-LEE-goh), kalmaro (kahl-MAHR-oh)
cuttlefish = sepio (sehp-EE-oh)
nautilus = nauxtilo (now-TEE-loh[/])
paper nautilus = argonauxto (ahr-goh-NOW-toh)
ammonite = amonito (ah-moh-NEE-toh)
tentacle = tentaklo (tehn-TAHK-loh)

OK now, anyone here wanna tell us how to say this stuff in Klingon?

Via amiko,

Re: How do you say 'octopus' in... |nancy|
Regarding Tony's question about New Latin:
New Latin is scientific Latin, not what the Romans spoke.

And when a word comes into English from another language and is accepted and used, it becomes an English word and can be treated as such. This is why it can have a normal English form of the plural.

Or at least, this is what I learned in all those language classes!


Re: How do you say 'octopus' in... |steve_oshea|
....not sure about this octopus business, but I'd sure like to know why there's no singular for sheep (sounds rather plural to me) :)

Re: How do you say 'octopus' in... |sushigirl|
Ship? How about deer and moose?

What do you get when you cross a bear and a deer?

beer! :D :D :roll: :indiffer:

Re: How do you say 'octopus' in... |tintenfisch|
to reply to the latin/greek question - with another question, actually - if the root word is greek but the latin name based on it is indeed octopus, doesn't that make octopus also a latin word?

Re: How do you say 'octopus' in... |nancy|
Hello Tintenfisch,
Yes, you are right in one sense. But usually the earliet root is given as the source, etymologically speaking.

If the word octopus were used in classical Latin, it would indeed be a Latin word. However, I can't find any evidence of its use, even after going through lists of classical Latin fish and aquatic creatures.
How did the Romans refer to an octopus? Will report on it here as soon as I find the answer.


Re: How do you say 'octopus' in... |nancy|
Here's an answer for you, Steve:

The word "sheep" has the same form in both singular and plural. It belongs to a group of words in modern English that go back to the Anglo-Saxon period (600AD-1100AD). Anglo-Saxon, or Old English as it is also called, had certain nouns with the same form in both singular and plural. These old plural forms are still in use today - sheep, deer, fish.

And as for SushiGirl's question about "moose", well, that's an old North Amerian Indian word (Algonquian) that also has the same form for singular and plural.

Yes, I had to research all this!


Re: Re: How do you say 'octopus' in... |arcanacoelestia|
How did the Romans refer to an octopus? Will report on it here as soon as I find the answer.

Salvé, O Nancy!

In Ellis' MONSTERS OF THE SEA, he mentions that Pliny the Elder lumped (good verb!) octopus and squid together under the term "polyp". With my rudimentary knowledge of Classical Latin, I presume that was a root word which undoubtedly had a suffix such as "-us" or whatever, depending upon the noun's declension. Breaking this word down to "poly-" and "-pus" or "-podes", that would mean "many-footed". In any event, I gather that's why so many modern European languages use some variation of "pulp-" or "polp-" for "octopus".

Valé tibi,

Re: How do you say 'octopus' in... |nancy|
Thanks for answering this question, Tani - it was in the back of my mind that I'd seen the answer somewhere before.

So on to other languages?


Re: Re: How do you say 'octopus' in... |arcanacoelestia|
You're most welcome, Nancy! Hmmm -- well, there's still that question of Klingon. I figure any guys who consider live gach (the squirmier the better) a delicacy, would also enjoy some equivalent of poulpe tartare. Any hardcore Trekkers out there who can tell us? (And please, Lt. Worf...say it, don't spray it :p )

The other pronunciation bugbear is cephalopod.... 'sefalopod' in the states and 'kephalopod' over here

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