Skip navigation

Tag Archives: etymology

I’m getting close to the end, so I’ll be careful not to reveal any crucial plot twists.

The essay was turgid to the point of being unreadable, besides using reference as a verb and pluralizing conundrum as conundra.

Infinite Jest, Page 947

Cue visit to The Guardian‘s Notes and Queries on the topic:

Conundrums. Contrary to what one might think, it is not a Latin word, and is described in my dictionary as ‘Ety. dub.’ If it was Latin it would be conundra. But it ain’t, so it isn’t.

–R Tanner, St Monans, Scotland

However, the questioner requested the correct plural, rather than the one which has come into common usage (through the evolution of the language, laziness, and the decline of the teaching of classics in schools). I wonder if Mr Harthill also refers to hippopotamuses, octopuses, or referendums…

–Philip Moreland, Durham, England

I hope that Philip Moreland says octopodes not octopi, given that octopus is 3rd declension Greek not 2nd declension Latin. Actually I am sure he does, but for anyone to whom this is news, the word octopodes has four syllables.

–Pelham Barton, Birmingham, UK

Wrong, all of you. The correct plural of ‘conundrum’ is, of course, ‘Notes and Queries’. Now, would anyone care to provide me with the plural of ‘overbearing pedants’…?

–Garrick Alder, London

Would there were more overbearing pedants here in the states.