The Scottish Octopus "Scotopus"
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"Don't flash the octopus!"
5..6..7..8! For the 8th day of the 8th month (in the old Roman calendar), celebrate the octopuses or octopodes in your life by using the correct plural! Though in common usage, the un-word "octopi" is based on a misapprehension that the word octopus is a second declension Latin noun, which it is not. Rather, it is (Latinized) Ancient Greek, from oktṓpous (ὀκτώπους), gender masculine, whose plural is oktṓpodes (ὀκτώποδες). Such distinctions are meaningful to the eight-legged kind who are extraordinarily intelligent and can complete puzzles, untie knots, open jars and toddler proof cases, and are expert escape artists from aquariums. Even more fascinating is the fact that their intelligence stems from a completely unrelated path to human intelligence, and about two-thirds of their neurons are in their arms, not their head! 🐙
Round Reel of Eight
October 8th is Octopus Day, October being the original 8th month in the old Roman calendar.
Octopus Wars - surprisingly, the standard pluralized form of "octopus" in the English language is "octopuses" and not "octopi" though the Ancient Greek plural "octopodes" has also been used historically.
The latest Oxford English Dictionary, however, has succumbed to common usage, and lists "octopuses", "octopi", and "octopodes", in that order, labelling "octopodes" as rare and noting that "octopi" derives from the misapprehension that octōpus comes from Latin.
In contrast, the New Oxford American Dictionary lists "octopuses" as the only acceptable pluralization, with a usage note indicating "octopodes" as being still occasionally used but "octopi" as being incorrect!
Octopuses are highly intelligent, possibly more so than any other order of invertebrates. Maze and problem-solving experiments have shown evidence of a memory system that can store both short and long-term memory, and they have been reported to practice observational learning.
Octopuses have been known to break out of their aquariums and sometimes into others in search of food. They have even boarded fishing boats and opened holds to eat crabs. They are also tool users! At least four specimens of the veined octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus) have been witnessed retrieving discarded coconut shells, manipulating them, and then reassembling them to use as shelter.
The Kraken, legendary sea monsters of giant proportions said to dwell off the coasts of Norway and Greenland, is usually portrayed in art as a giant octopus attacking ships.
In other literature, octopuses figure prominently in Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Victor Hugo's Toilers Under the Sea, and John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday (as Cannery Row's "devilfish").
The bizarre sport of octopus "wrestling" (involving a diver grappling with a large octopus in shallow water and dragging it to the surface) was popular in the mid 20th century, most popularly on the West Coast of the United States during the 1960s.
In a provocative article from True magazine in 1964, the author writes about a gentleman named O'Rourke whom he dubs the "Father of Octopus Wrestling":
"All this while O'Rourke was becoming perhaps the world's greatest authority on the thought processes and the personality of the octopus. He knew how to outmaneuver them, to outflank them, and to outthink them. He knew full well, many years ago, what today's octopus wrestlers are just beginning to learn—that it is impossible for a man with two arms to apply a full nelson on an octopus; he knew full well the futility of trying for a crotch hold on an opponent with eight crotches."
So, while you're wrestling with this bit of unassailable wisdom, see the dance performed by the Vancouver Island Scottish Country Dance Society, Victoria B.C. Spring Fling, 2013, below:
And to see the mimic octopus change colors real time, click the octopus!