Friday, July 29, 2011

What's the plural of "platypus"?

The word "platypus" is constructed from two Greek roots: "platys" means "flat," and "-pus" is related to "-pod" meaning "foot." The plural ending of Greek words ending in both "-pus" and "-pod" is "-podes."

However... "platypus" is NOT a Greek word, it is a modern word that was constructed in a "neo-Latin" fashion to be used n English and other languages. It is only constructed of Greek parts. So, this is where it gets messy.

For Latin words ending in "-us," we would end the plural in "-i." So a lot of people do that for "platypus" and "octopus," despite "platypi" and "octopi" not really making any sense from a historical perspective.

Those in the know about Greek like to end the plural in "-podes" ("platypodes," "octopodes") to make us feel smart - and yes, that includes me - even though it is so obscure that almost no one will understand what we are saying. We might as well be speaking Greek and we should be ashamed of ourselves. (But, whatever. That's probably not the only reason.)

Apparently, at least some people in Australia go the "sheep"/"sheep" route and don't change the word at all in the plural.

But the ACTUAL, proper way to pluralize the word - get this - is the same as for nearly all words in English: add "-es." That's right, the most accepted plural of the word is "platypuses." (Go ahead and check your dictionary and you'll see it's the first option listed.)

That being said, I propose we follow the "goose"/"geese" model and call them "platypeese" just to be different and confuse people - because language is by nature messy, and in this case I think it's still not yet quite messy enough.

Platypeese for everyone!

Photo courtesy of Thoughts to Avoid Homework To. Thanks to sephycloneno15 for the "playtpeese" recommendation.


Bonus! A handy chart showing how to pluralize octopus! (From Darrwin Eats Cake.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Alien robot zombie alphabet

Alien Bandit Cowboy Dragon Elf Fireball Ghost Hunter Insectoid Jetfighter Kung-fu Laserbeam Mutant Ninja Overlord Pirate Quake Robot Shark Tornado Underworld Vampire Wizard Xiphoid* Yeti Zombie

* xiphoid = sword-shaped

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Our first BIG asteroid: welcome to Vesta

This is Vesta - from a photo taken July 9 from a distance of about 41,000 kilometers (26,000 miles), closer than we have ever gotten to an asteroid of this size.

At approximately 1:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time this morning, the NASA Dawn space craft entered orbit around the size-M planetoid. For the next year, it will continue to orbit Vesta and reveal its secrets to us. Why did it never advance from protoplanet to a larger body? How has it been affected by the collision that removed a huge chunk at its southern pole?

Then Dawn will venture to another asteroid, the largest of them all, size-L Ceres - which has officially been named an official dwarf planet by the IAU.

Considering that the asteroids are likely future mining colonies for the human race, this is exciting. Although it is buried behind the story of the last Space Shuttle mission, this is the most important thing NASA is doing right now, and history will look back on this day as monumental.

Photo courtesy of NASA.

UPDATE: Here is the first photo from orbit of the 530 km (330 mile) diameter protoplanet:

UPDATE: Here are two more wonderful photos and a video from NASA. The first photo shows a close-up of the asteroid's southern polar region. The second is a great, full-frame detail shot. If you look to the left of the second photo, you'll see the three-crater formation that has been nicknamed the "snowman."