Always getting me ''puses'' and me ''pi'' mixed up

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uncleted

Senior Member
italian
Hi everyone
I was watching an episode of little Britain and I didn't t quite get the gag in the sketch where Andy and Lou are at the aquarium <-----Video link deleted.----->
We have a few octopi. <--->
- Oh, it's octopi, is it? - Yes.
- What did l say? - Octopuses.
Oh, silly me. Always getting me ''puses'' and me ''pi'' mixed up.

What do puses and pi mean?
Thanks
 
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  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    -puses and -pi are possible suffixes to create the plural of octopus:

    One octopus, two octopuses or (now rare) octopi. You should use 'octopuses." :thumbsup:

    "Always getting me ''puses'' and me ''pi'' mixed up." is a joke,

    The plural of octopus is difficult for English speakers because of such plurals as one radius, two radii, one terminus, two termini.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    These are the last parts of the words "octopuses" and "octopi." The speaker first used "octopuses" as the plural of "octopus." He was then told that the correct plural is "octopi." He apologized for his error.

    (In fact, both "octopuses" and "octopi" are accepted as the plural of "octopus." So is "octopodes," from the original Greek root, but it is rare.)

    Cross-posted.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    It's a joke about the correct plural form of 'octopus'. The aquarium employee says "octopi" (actually wrongly). The character you quote said "octopuses" and is then saying, after being 'corrected' by the employee, that he gets his "puses" and his "pi" mised up. You might think that he means the ends of his words, but the "puses" in "octopuses" is pronounced "pussies" and the "pi" in "octopi" is pronounced "pie". "Pussy" is a colloquialism for the female genitalia, so I leave the rest to your imagination.

    Cross posted. Little Britain is not known for intellectual jokes. A joke solely about the correct ending of the plural form of octopus would not raise even a smile in its audience.
     

    Silver_Biscuit

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    A joke solely about the correct ending of the plural form of octopus would not raise even a smile in its audience.
    I wonder whether anyone would go so far as to smile at a joke about the plural form of octopus... It would barely even be a joke without the double entendre, just some slightly funny-sounding words.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Actually, octopi could never be a correct plural for octopus. It's a Greek word, not Latin, so the correct plural is octopodes :eek:. Not surprising that everybody says octopuses :tick:.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Ahem... OED:
    octopus, n. and adj.
    Inflections: Plural octopuses, octopi, (rare) octopodes
    Etymology: < scientific Latin octopus (1758 or earlier in Linnaeus) The plural form octopodes reflects the Greek plural; compare octopod n. The more frequent plural form octopi arises from apprehension of the final -us of the word as the grammatical ending of Latin second declension nouns; this apprehension is also reflected in compounds in octop- : see e.g. octopean adj., octopic adj., octopine adj., etc.

    A. n.
    1.
    a. Any of numerous cephalopod molluscs of the genus Octopus or the order Octopoda, having eight sucker-bearing arms or tentacles, a beaklike mouth, and no internal shell (or only a vestigial one);

    1884 H. M. Leathes Rough Notes Nat. Hist. 46 Saying that enormous octopuses existed on the western side of Panama, in the Pacific Ocean.

    1942 National Geographic Mag. June 780/2 Young octopi, delicacy of the Japanese, hungrily searched about with their tentacles. The big dangerous ones would be in deep water.
    ;)
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I wonder whether anyone would go so far as to smile at a joke about the plural form of octopus... It would barely even be a joke without the double entendre, just some slightly funny-sounding words.
    I thought that was what I said: "would not raise even a smile".
     

    Silver_Biscuit

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    I thought that was what I said: "would not raise even a smile".
    Oh, sorry. I suppose I put too much emphasis on the ending of your sentence, 'in its audience', coupled with the (very fair) observation that Little Britain isn't exactly highbrow humour. I just meant that it was barely a joke at all without the double entendre, and it had nothing to do with whether the audience liked intellectual jokes or not. Crossed wires!
     

    uncleted

    Senior Member
    italian
    All right, I get the joke now.
    I must admit that Little Britain is one of my least favourite British comedies.
    Thanks for your help.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    As Paul points out, it's fully accepted by the OED. The American Heritage Dictionary also accepts both octopuses and octopi.
    That's because they are dictionaries which reflect usage and don't express opinions. There's good reason to say octopi is wrong, but the word exists.

    S_B, I'll go and get my wirecutters ;)
     
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