Thursday, November 02, 2006

Classical Plurales

Part of my quest to reinstate Latin as the lingua franca of the modern world involves bringing Latin plurals back into common usage. Here are five simple rules to ensure that you are never embarassed in polite company.

1. Words ending in -a change to –ae

one formula, two formulae
one antenna, two antennae
one banana, two bananae

2. Words ending in –us change to –i (see exceptions below)

one focus, two foci
one locus, two loci
one walrus, two walri

3. Words ending in –um change to –a

one datum, two data
one referendum, two referenda
one alpacum, two alpaca

4. Words ending in –x change to –ces

one appendix, two appendices
one index, two indices
one box, two boces

5. Words ending in –is change to –es

one crisis, two crises
one thesis, two theses
one iris, two ires

Exceptions

People often try to apply rule #2 to the words platypus, octopus and hippopotamus. These words are obviously of Greek origin, and so applying Latin plurales to them is problematic. The correct form for the first two is of course platypodes and octopodes (pus/pod- means 'foot' and is the same word that you find in podiatrist). Hippopotamus is a bit trickier. As you should know hippo is Greek for ‘horse’ and potamus means ‘of the river’. Therefore the correct plural should be hippoipotamus ('horses of the river') or if you like hippoipotamon ('horses of the rivers').

Neuter nouns such as opus and genus and gerbus, though being Latin in origin, also do not conform to rule #2. Their plurals should be opera, genera and gerbera respectively.

16 comments:

byron said...

:-)
Thanks for sharing these with i.*

*Think about it...

jm said...

the plural of us? reminds me of a something i once read (i think in column 8 last year) about the mathematician who wrote to his friend, suggesting they get together to solve some conundra. his friend replied something like "surely we have better things to do than sit around on our ba doing sa".

teenage dirtbag said...

ahhh i see *thumbs up*

byron said...

Very nice.

Anonymous said...

These are funny - but alpaca is from Ayamara, not Latin.

Anonymous said...

So, what's the plural of curriculum vitae? Curricula vitarum?

Sarah S said...

Dear Byron, I don't know who you are, but you are really funny!!

Dear Mr Morrison, I have forgotten what our Latin homework was! Julia does not know either.
On a much more happier note (Mrs Murray style), I liked this blog very much! Correct plurals are very important. But my dad taught me ever since before I was even in school that the plurals of platypus, octopus and hippopotamus were platypi, octopi and hippopotami respectively, and all my life I believed him until right now. And I thought I was such a smartypants. I am so embarassed! OMGZ :$

teenage dirtbag said...

did you know that originally, in a deck of playing cards...
- king of diamonds represented Caesar
- king of clubs, Alexander the great
- king of hearts, Charlemagne, and
- king of spades, David
...? found that out a while ago but its awesome stuff

jeltzz said...

jm, completely off topic, but just wondering what text, if any, you use for teaching high-school

oh, btw, i followed byron here (i follow him lots of places in cyberspace.. does that make me a cyber-stalker?)

Mike Salter said...

the plural of us? reminds me of a something i once read (i think in column 8 last year) about the mathematician who wrote to his friend, suggesting they get together to solve some conundra. his friend replied something like "surely we have better things to do than sit around on our ba doing sa".

Classic!

I'm sure that'll amuse some of my Year 8 doofi... ;-)

jm said...

Jeltzz, my school uses the Cambridge Latin Course, which is not without its problems, but is pretty good for high school students. i wouldn't really recommend it for adult learners (if that's your interest)- i'd probably go for something like wheelock- though i've never actually used it, it seems a pitched at a higher level.

jeltzz said...

thanks, jm. I've just finished a grad.dip. in latin, so that is not quite the reason for my asking :)

rather, I just have a pet interest in latin pedagogy and like to inquire about these things.

jm said...

ah... well of course that's quite different then.

Adela said...

you do realise that stuff like this is polluting the fragile minds of your year 9 class. gosh.
p.s. our fun projects are not being fun

Anonymous said...

so is the plural of penis "penes"?

jm said...

yep