Quid est?: Octopi and More Latin Plurals

Latin, though dead through and through, has undoubtedly pushed its way into the English language in an important way. Not enough of us these days know how to wrangle it properly, though. “Quid est?”, or “What is that?”, will help you with Latin lingo and lore.

Is it octopuses or octopi (like your annoyingly insistent friend claims)? How do you say algae anyways? Are you really an alumni of that college? Why do we have these seemingly random exceptions to plural-forming conventions? Such are questions asked about Latin-derived plurals.

In English, we more-or-less use the same spelling for different forms and uses of nouns. For example, using the word “friend” as a subject, we would just write “friend”. If we used it as a possessive word, we might write “of the friend” or “the friend’s”. For the plural, we’d write “friends”. Using it as an indirect object might look like “to the friend” and as a direct object, it’d be “friend” again.

Latin is not like this–instead of surrounding a noun like “amicus” (Latin for friend) with little words like “of”, “to”, and “the”, or simply appending “-s” to words to create plurals, Latin declines nouns into several forms, each implying different usages. Just by appending different suffixes to the base of a word, I can indicate a subject or an indirect object, a direct address or a direct object, singular or plural, all by just changing the ending of the noun.

As you might have guessed, Latin also has forms to denote plural nouns. For example, the plural form of “amicus” (a male friend) is “amici”. The plural form of “amica” (a female friend), however, isn’t “amici” as well; it’s “amicae”. Because of even more complications with gender, there are multiple declensions, and depending on the noun, different plural ending forms.

Some Latin nouns have wormed their way into English today, and still retain some of their abnormal plural endings. Here’s your guide to identifying them and correctly using the plural form.

The first matter at hand is to identify when you have one of these Latin nouns. Most of these have one of three endings: “-a”, “-us”, or “-um”. For example, formula, fungus, and forum are all Latin-derived English nouns. No doubt it’s not always easy to identify these; there’s no particular rule, since we’re in English. The best way to be sure, though, is to check the context. Does it sound Latin? Could it have originated from Latin? Are you in a scientific setting? (Scientists love naming things in Latin.) For example, I know forum must be one of these Latin nouns, since in ancient Roman times, a forum was a large plaza, a meeting place; almost a “farmer’s market” for intelligent political (and the like) discussion.

Depending on the ending you have, the plural could be a couple of different forms.

  • If the noun ends in -a, the plural form will end in -ae. (For the pronunciation savvy, -ae is said like the letter “I”.) However, of the three endings, this is the least frequent to make it into modern English. Err on the side of English on this one; a noun ending in -a is much more likely to be English than Latin-derived.
    • In our example “formula”, the ‘correct’ Latin plural is “formulae”.
    • Nouns ending in -a are usually feminine in gender (this doesn’t really have to do with the femininity of the object discussed, but nouns describing female people, non-concrete concepts and romantic ideas are often feminine).
  • If the noun ends in -us, the plural form will end in -i. (-i is pronounced “ee”, like the letter “E”.) This pops up quite frequently in English language, actually.
    • In our example “fungus”, the plural is “fungi”.
    • -us nouns are usually masculine in gender.
  • If the noun ends in -um, the plural form is debatable. Most of the time, it will be -a (just pronounced “ah”), but occasionally, you might see -i pop up.
    • In our example “forum”, the plural is “fora”.
    • -um nouns can be either masculine or neuter (neutral) in gender.

You can follow these rules to identify and correctly decline Latin-derived nouns yourself, but following is a list of particularly discussable nouns.

  • radius: As you probably know from geometry class, the plural is indeed “radii” (with two i’s), and is said “ray-dee-ee”. This double i phenomenon is actually not uncommon in Latin, with nouns which have base stems ending in i.
  • forum: As more virtual message boards pop up nowadays, the word “forum” is coming into more frequent usage. While a good portion of people choose to use the Latin plural “fora”, many more people say “forums”, and either way is fine.
  • algae: If you look back to the plural rules, algae is actually a plural. However, “alga”, the singular, isn’t used often. The technical Latin pronunciation would be “ahl-guy” with a hard g, but it is conventionally pronounced (and thus accepted as a “correct” pronunciation) as “ahl-gee” with a soft g.
  • alumni: Once again, this is a plural form. You could refer to a group of graduates as alumni, but only because when mixing males and females, we use the masculine form. A more accurate form of describing a group of female graduates would be “alumnae”. And what about you, yourself? No, you’re not an alumni of university. You’re an “alumnus” or an “alumna”, depending on your gender.
  • antenna: The Latin plural for antenna is “antennae”, but it shares the spotlight with the equally-used “antennas”. Since both are used in everyday language, both are acceptable forms.
  • media: Yeah, that’s a plural Latin noun! Nowadays, the word “media” is treated as a singular mass noun, but it is the plural of “medium”, referring to the different types of methods used to communicate information.
  • octopus: Wait, that’s not a Latin noun. oktopous was originally a Greek noun, with a plural form of oktopodes. Although octopus deceptively contains the Latin-derived prefix for “eight”, and has that -us ending, it is not, in fact, a Latin noun. Thus, “octopi” as a plural for octopus is not technically correct as it were derived from Latin; “octopuses” would be more ‘right’. However, since language is shaped by what people choose to say, “octopuses”, “octopi”, and “octopodes” are accepted plurals in the Oxford English Dictionary. In the end, take your pick, but octopi is derived from a misconception.

These are just a sampling of all there is, but hopefully this list gets you started.

You may notice that these words frequently are able to take the Latin plural and the English-formed “-s” or “-es” ending. Neither is a wrong way to say it, but I personally like using the Latin forms when I can, because, Latin. It’s elegant. (As a side effect, it makes you sound smart. Just kidding.)

One does have to, in the end, realize that language can never be completely controlled by rules. Language is a method of communication, and whichever way humans choose to do it (and understand each other) is, after all, the “real” way. Even though, as a Latin student, I like saying “ahl-guy” and debating the correct plural of octopus, these nouns will never follow all the Latin rules; we’re in English! So take the “correct” way to do Latin with a grain of salt, and remember that if enough people decide to use a certain form of a word, it’s a “correct”, an acceptable form just because people use it.

Quid est?: Octopi and More Latin Plurals

Off the Hook: Amigurumi

I’ve only recently started crocheting, previously being an exclusive knitter. However, I’ve quickly discovered that it’s just as easy and fun once you understand it. “Off the Hook” follows my newbie’s journey through learning crochet, as well as little discoveries.

The reason I decided to figure out crochet once and for all in 2014 was because I was in need of a round rug. As any knitter knows, non-rectangular shapes are undoubtedly more challenging to create in knitting than in crocheting.

This past Christmas, I was stumped on what to create for my young cousins, who are too old for baby clothes and blankets, yet not old enough for sophisticated cowls and hats. Mittens wouldn’t work either, them living in a warmer climate.

Not weeks earlier, I had learned the name to the art of creating typically anthropomorphic stuffed animals; amigurumi. The Japanese word combines two meanings, ami, meaning crocheted (or knitted) and nuigurumi, meaning a stuffed doll. Most popularly, amigurumi is done in crocheting, although more complicated techniques exist in knitting. It is a widely popular hobby, as well as a versatile technique–I mean, just look at everything you can do! Once I thought of it, I realized it would be a great idea for gifts for my cousins, with only one problem–I’d never tried it before, let alone do much crocheting at all.

But, as I typically am with most everything, I jumped into the deep end, starting with a simple duck pattern and then trying to design patterns for one cousin’s favorite video game characters. It was much simpler than I expected, being, in short, the art of creating shapes by combining single crocheting, increasing, and decreasing, all in the round. After creating each piece, you stuff them and join them to create a cute creature.

My first crocheted amigurumi, a fun and easy project in all.
My first crocheted amigurumi, a fun and easy project in all.

Here’s some of what I’ve learned so far:

  • Many patterns will start you off with something similar to “ch2, sc 6 times into second ch from hook”. Unless you enjoy the little gaping hole you get, don’t follow these starting instructions! Sample of that wonderful crevice in the duck’s beak above. No, there’s really no way to follow these instructions and get a starting ring closed enough not to look bothersome! The solution is called the Magic Ring, which basically has you crochet the first 6 sc on to an adjustable ring, which you pull tight, eliminating that annoying hole. A fantastic tutorial is available on PlanetJune, a crocheting site that has plenty of amigurumi tips as well as other crocheting resources.
  • Size doesn’t matter! Literally! The great thing about amigurumi is that the size hook and yarn weight you use doesn’t matter, as long as they’re in sync. Reading the recommendation on the yarn label for hook size and bringing it down a couple sizes will do. Thus, I imagine that if you took a particularly nice pattern and repeated it with different sizes of hooks and yarn, you’d get a cute family of different sizes. Yeah, I’m going to try that some day.
  • Who has to weave in ends in amigurumi? One amazing thing about having stuffed pieces is that you can just dump the hanging ends inside the project, stuff, and forget about it! Naturally, one should make sure that the ends are secure, but in general, knots are not required. Leaving ends inside the project is completely valid and an amazing time-saver.
  • I’ve mentioned it already, but I’m recommending it again; PlanetJune.com is an amazing resource for beginning amigurumi tips. I especially recommend reading/watching her Magic Ring and Joining Amigurumi tutorials, staples for anybody trying amigurumi.
  • Even more easily than knitting (which I’ve been doing forever), it is so easy to create your own basic amigurumi patterns! If you collect a couple good patterns for basic shapes, you can just modify them and join them together to create fancies of your mind’s eye.
    • I’d like to mention a pattern for spheres here, since we all know that the surface area of a sphere doesn’t exactly increase linearly, or exponentially. Thus, quite a few attempts at creating a good sphere pattern have failed. One mathematician of a crocheter set out to create the Ideal Sphere because of the lack of one. Check it out on her blog. Note that you can also create gumdrop shapes or dome-topped cylinders using half a sphere pattern.
  • Most amigurumi you’ll do, will, at the very least, include eyes. You could choose to embroider these, but the most common solution is safety eyes. These are basically black buttons which look like point-less screws. You can stick them through one of those convenient holes in the crocheting, and stick a securing washer on the back to keep it there forever. If positioned correctly, they can be the key part to the “cuteness” of your project. I happened upon a small quantity of them by chance in the buttons section of my craft store, but I imagine if you’re looking for more, and a wider selection, you’ll have to be looking online. (Safety animal noses exist too, in case you are doing a dog or cat, or the like.)
    • If you can’t find safety eyes, sewing on felt or embroidering with yarn are also feasible options.
  • Overestimate the yarn you’ll need. In migrating from knitting to crocheting, the main general part that I’m having trouble with is how much yarn I’ll need. It makes sense, though, that crocheting just takes up so much more yarn than knitting; each crochet stitch is made up of so many more motions, hooks, and yarn overs than knitting.

Another great thing about amigurumi is that there are already so many people doing it–there’s no end to the amount of patterns around, and definitely a surplus of people who can help you learn.

Amigurumi is a worthwhile technique to have in your basket, if you crochet. I’m usually hesitant to try new things, since I like to approach them slowly and correctly, but I was thrown into figuring the whole thing out within weeks. It’s a relatively easy hobby to pick up, and fun, too. I can just see it; I’m going to have done so much more of this in a couple months.

Off the Hook: Amigurumi

Tech Toolbox: HabitRPG

I will never be able to truly consider myself as well-versed in technology; very few people have seen it all. But I do love searching out the best I can find, and once I find it, I stick with it. In my Tech Toolbox you can find my favorite software, applications, and occasionally gadgets.

HabitRPG, at first, sounds like just another one of those “social gaming” games, a time-consuming “Farmville”, a nerdy pretender’s game (okay, that last one is kind of true), but it’s much more than that.

The land of Habitica is a place filled with the usual; Warriors, Mages, Rogues, and Healers, but it is also filled with dangerous, daunting monsters. These aren’t just any ordinary RPG monsters, because a honest Habitican will never find these monsters simple to tackle; you’re not in a game which some will just find boringly easy. HabitRPG turns your life into a game, and the monsters which you are up against are your bad habits, daily tasks, HabitRPG Tasksand that really long checklist of to-dos. Yeah, so it’s productivity tool meets game. You don’t say.

I like to compare HabitRPG most closely to one of those “social games”–the empire building games, the “Farmville” games, the “Pokemon” type games. All the usual aspects are there; the quests, the monsters, the pets, the equipment, and the social community.

One of the main reasons I keep playing any social game is because of the competitive, level-up nature of them; in the end, all you want is to move forward, gain another level, complete another quest, do better than the other players, and that drive is what keeps you coming back each time you do. And besides, have you ever met a grumpy social gamer? They’re the nicest. (The selfish ones just stay quiet.) Social games, upon zooming out, can seem like a stupid waste of time, but HabitRPG is one I continue to play because of the positive effect on my actual, real life.

Here are some of the aspects of the inside of Habit.

  • You create your enemies, the monsters you battle.
    • Any habit you need help breaking or building? Do you need to be waking up earlier each day, stop reading the sports news
      Quest for soap to get rid of all the dirty dishes!
      Quest for soap to get rid of all the dirty dishes!

      incessantly, or (gasp!) use the soap when you wash your hands? Make a Habit monster, which will attack you upon failure to build it up, or take a blow from you if you can muster up the strength to pick up your sword and swing at it.

    • Need to take out the trash daily, or perhaps just on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Create a Daily. They’ll attack you if you don’t subdue them on the days you have to complete them.
    • Have homework to do, errands to run, or knitting projects to complete? To-Dos can help you siphon that pesky to-do list out of your mind and onto paper–er, turning them into monsters which need…defeating?

      HabitRPG Equipment
      Choose your armor and weapons from the equipment screen.
  • As you tick of the checkmarks on the tasks that are your foes, you gain gold and experience. You can use gold to buy cool armor and weapons for your character from the Rewards store, or perhaps you need to reward yourself sometimes with a TV show or a snack sometime by buying them with gold from the store.
    • In addition to gold and experience, there’s a chance of getting drops when you slay monsters, or getting crits (that’s critical hits for you non-gamers). Especially if you’re just waiting for that one drop, it’s another incentive to check things off!
  • Role-playing games are famed for having a class system, and HabitRPG is no exception. Once you reach a certain level, you’ll be able to choose your class, thus determining what character attributes you wish to focus on improving with your equipment sale options. Each class can further help spur you on based on what most motivates you to keep playing social games–the level ups, the gold hoarding, or perhaps staying alive and not dying.

    The Laundromancer is here to pelt you with dirty clothes!
    The Laundromancer is here to pelt you with dirty clothes!
  • Although they confer no extra benefit, some super cute pets and fierce-looking mounts are in order for you to collect. After finding an egg and a hatching potion via the drop system, you can hatch a pet, which you can then feed with food (also found as drops) to nurse it until it grows into a huge mount! These can be incorporated into your avatar as you like.
  • The entire Habitica population is there for you. An important aspect of a social game is competition found in community, as well as fighting the good fight alongside others who are struggling against the same habits. You can join the talk in the tavern, or align yourself with cooking, music, coding, student life, or even LGBT guilds to find people with similar interests and obstacles to overcome.Stag Battle
    • Either with online-made friends or even those you know in real life, you can create a close-knit party, with whom you can go on boss quests, buff each other’s stats, and have a tight circle in which you can specifically encourage each other to continue killing monsters.
  • There are even challenges in which you can compete against others to claim the most rare of currencies, gems. Once again, competition and high stakes are there to get you to try new things, achieve new goals, or slay all of your dailies.

There’s so much more to Habit, which I can’t possibly detail here, but in summary, it’s an amazing tool which can literally boost your productivity through a very gaming-aspected system.

That’s not to say that Habit hasn’t got it’s flaws, though; what tool hasn’t? Here’s a look at the other side of it all:

  • Habit is a beta-stage open-source project, which means it’s still highly under development. There are plenty of bugs yet to be ironed out, and missing features to be added. If you decide to use it now, you have to work with the fact that stuff just isn’t going to work sometimes.
  • One problem I have with Habit is that the aspect of social games which motivates me most, leveling up, has major problems with its math. It’s definitely some underlying formula which I can’t explain, but many other games which incorporate a sense of leveling up are much more motivating in this aspect. Perhaps it’s only because it takes so much work to level up in Habit that there’s absolutely no celebration when you finally cross that threshold, gruelling in exhaustion.
  • Look through the community guild listings for those with similar interests!
    Look through the community guild listings for those with similar interests.

    I play as the mage class currently, and unlike promised, it is underwhelmingly underpowered. Mages’ strong point is supposed to be a large boost in XP and mana collection, while an extremely buffed Warrior will find much more XP and mana than a mage in all the crits. Perhaps this is only the warrior class being OP (a different but equally problematic flaw), but I’ve lost all hope in catching up to a member of my party who is a warrior.

  • There is a lack of equipment for the stuff-hoarder. Habiticans will very quickly, and I mean very quickly, find themselves out of exciting armor and equipment to purchase. Even now, I am disappointed that I can’t get any new wizard robes or magical staffs. Finding all the pets and mounts does take a while, but it’s more of a grueling task than a quest which has been well-gauged in terms of difficulty and time.
  • As is with most RPGs, it’s a very geeky game. If you don’t really have fun pretending you’re in a fantastical world, it’ll be harder to stare down the ridiculous outfits and large boss penguins without wondering why you’re doing it.
The infamous Snackless Monster has arisen out of the trash lying around!
The infamous Snackless Monster has arisen out of the trash lying around!

Although HabitRPG may not, admittedly, be a suitable tool for the “non-geek”, it sets itself apart from other productivity tools because they provide incentive to keep playing–it’s a game, it’s fun. In a scramble to best your friends, to not die in-game, or be the first to collect all the pets, HabitRPG coerces you into logging in periodically to check up on everything.

Habit is also known for some very drastic and life-changing results. It’s a very encouraging thing to check into the tavern and read a moving story about somebody who has used Habit to turn their entire life around.

So, in total, what do I think of HabitRPG? I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a motivating productivity tool, although only the subset of those who enjoy games (those who don’t would not enjoy it as much). Users also have to be tolerant of the fact that it’s a beta tool, not yet perfected. In spite of all of this, I enjoy using HabitRPG day-to-day, and I hope to be battling monsters alongside you soon.

Tech Toolbox: HabitRPG

Quid est?: Understand i.e. and e.g.

Latin, though dead through and through, has undoubtedly pushed its way into the English language in an important way. Not enough of us these days know how to wrangle it properly, though. “Quid est?”, or “What is that?”, will help you with Latin lingo and lore.

So what are i.e. and e.g.? We start talking about words, i.e. groups of letters, e.g. groups, of, letters, and suddenly these two abbreviations beg to show up. Which one should you use, though?

i.e. stands for id est, Latin for “that is”. Use it to clarify what you’re saying. For example, I might be talking about an hour, i.e. sixty minutes.

e.g. stands for exempli gratia, Latin for “for the sake of example”. Use it to give a couple examples for what you’re saying. For example, I might be talking about different time zones, e.g. Eastern Standard Time, Greenwich Mean Time, or Western Indonesian Time.

In conclusion, think of i.e. as “that is”, and e.g. as “for example”. Now you don’t have to mix them up the next time you use them!

Quid est?: Understand i.e. and e.g.

Around Cubes: Snake Pattern

Rubik’s Cubes are on the rise again within the new generation. Speedsolving and twisty-puzzle wrangling are becoming more commonplace hobbies. To help you keep up to date, I detangle this seemingly impossible puzzle for you in “Around Cubes”.

I think anybody who likes to solve Rubik’s Cubes as a hobby, whether as a competitive speedsolver, or a higher-order puzzle lover, likes to play around with patterns. Even those who don’t know how to solve the puzzle know they can rotate the middle layer of each axis 180 degrees and get a cool fireworks pattern.

In my pattern ‘repertoire’ is the snake pattern; it’s one of my favorite patterns to do, and to look at. It’s relatively less well-known, and a bit more complicated to remember, than, say, the flower pattern, but it’s definitely a rewarding pattern to have in your toolbox of impressive tricks.

On your 3x3x3 cube, perform this algorithm:

R U F’ U’ L2 F’ L2 U’ F U’ R U2 F R2

You can now trace the line all around the cube as it snakes around. Yes, it does create a topologically complete circle!

The snake pattern on my 3x3x3 cube.
The snake pattern on my 3x3x3 cube.

To reset your cube, hold the cube so that one of the two faces with a line on it is the F face, and the line is horizontal. Then, just invert the algorithm. Here’s the ‘undo’ algorithm:

R2 F’ U2 R’ U F’ U L2 F L2 U F U’ R’

Using your favorite algorithm memorization methods, it’s a relatively easy sequence to remember. Naturally, as is with most other algorithms, it’s just as easy to forget. Keep it in practice if you’d like to keep it around.

The snake pattern is a really pretty pattern, as well as fun to look at, and I’d wager very few of any cuber-acquaintances of yours know how to do it. Nothing works as well as a fresh new trick that they can’t do to impress your friends! Good luck.

Around Cubes: Snake Pattern

Yarn Over: Measuring Pieces

It’s my personal belief that every knitter will eventually learn more about the mechanics of knitting just through knitting itself, if you’re willing to look for little lessons to learn. Knitting has taught me quite a lot of these small things over seven years of doing it; Yarn Over is just a couple of those tips.

Measuring pieces on the needle can be a very important aspect of projects, especially if you’re making a piece of clothing or something else that should be a certain size. It’s slightly more complicated than it sounds, though, just measuring knitting. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Have a good measuring tape. The one I use is long, collapsible, floppy (not rigid), and measures in both inches and centimeters.
    The tape I use for measuring knitting!
    The tape I use for measuring knitting!
    • Unless you’re measuring for gauge, stiff rulers are usually a bad idea. (They’re often too short, which makes you use multiple rulers, or using the same one over again, which creates imprecise measurement.)
    • If you’re into it, stiff measuring tapes aren’t bad, but I’ve personally found that they create much more uncertainty and offer less flexibility (no pun intended) than floppy tapes.
    • You can find some good measuring tapes at your local sewing store. I happen to own a couple from a science expo.
      • As a bonus, my tape has a ring at the end. The current use for this is to thread it on my cable needle and store both by keeping the cable needle stuck through my knitting. Makes for good transportation!

        I like to store my measuring tape by hooking it into my knitting with my cable!
        I like to store my measuring tape by hooking it into my knitting with my cable needle.
  • Have a flat surface to measure on. A hard table is always the best option. To the get the most accurate measurement, having the knitting flat will help you not to measure stretched knitting or wrinkles which ‘shorten’ length.
    • Not going to lie, I measure knitting on soft surfaces all the time, like my bed, or hanging in the air in the car! The main idea here is to remember that you’re not getting an exact measurement. I often do this when I just need a rough measurement.
  • Measure the same way each time. If you need to check the length of a piece often, don’t do it two different ways.
    Down the middle, to the needle. I get 44 cm here.
    Down the middle, to the needle. I get 44 cm here.
    • If you decide to have the zero line down at the beginning and the measurement up at the needle (my personal preference), do it again that way next time. If you decide to have the zero line at the needle, and measure down to the beginning, do it that way again next time.
  • Measure down the middle. This also means don’t measure down edges, or cables, or anything that makes the piece tense or loosen at places. The middle is often the most relaxed part of a piece, and the left and right edges can be much tighter or looser than the rest of it.
  • Measure up to the needle, don’t include it! I remember that when I first tried measuring knitting, I came to the needle and I was like, well, do I include this in the measurement? I decided to do it. No! You’re not supposed to. The actual knitting only comes up to right under the needle. Adding the width of the needle misrepresents the length of the next row.

Now you know how I measure knitting. Don’t hesitate to suggest your improvements to my non-expert methods!

(Modeling here is a sleeve from a sweater project. The pattern is from the Usborne book of knitting.)

Yarn Over: Measuring Pieces

Hello World

It’s me, knittingfrenzy18. I might as well open with some 2015 Resolutions (which turn out to be more like goals than resolutions, but whatever).

  1. Pay attention to my soul
  2. Find a work ethic
  3. Become ambidextrous
  4. Write more

Small words, powerful goals. As part of the fourth item listing, I’m writing an actual blog this year. How fun.

Hello World