Ten best

by Brian Clarey

Ten best



We should start off with the impetus for this tribute to the “octo” prefix, which comes from the Latin and generally — generally — refers to the number eight: October, which begins the day after this issue’s publication date.

But wait, you say… October is the 10 th month. What’s the deal with that? Well, my friends, that can be explained by Julius Caesar and his nephew Augustus — back in like 45 BCE the Roman Senate gave ol’ Julius some props by giving him his own month, which we in the United States know as July. They did the same for his nephew Augustus after he took out Marc Antony, who had by then hooked up with Cleopatra and was making a move for the throne. Some bonus history: Because the senate didn’t want to give Augustus a shorter month than Julius, they pulled a day from February so that both could be 31 days.


Octopi are cool, especially in the plural. They’ve got big brains, jet-propelled motility and eight suction-cupped legs. Plus they’re absolutely delicious.


Next up in this octanary list is actually a number, but it’s the word for the number that makes it jump: octodecillion, which is represented by a one followed by 57 zeroes in the US and France, and in the UK and Germany means a one followed by 108 zeroes. The good ol’ ’merican version looks like this: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000.

OCTOROON This is a term borne of American racism in the early days of the country.

Octoroon technically refers to a person of one-eighth African-American ancestry. But I include it here because of the Octoroon Balls that took place in New Orleans in the 1800s, where light-skinned African Americans consorted with Crescent City aristocracy, resulting in a mixing of races that at the time would have been considered a crime anywhere else in the country. There’s more to the story of course, but to get the vibe pick up a copy of Wynton Marsalis’ At the Octoroon Balls.


Another reason I wanted to write this was to get a cheap shot in at the crazy single mom who deliberately — deliberately! — grew eight babies at one time in her uterus, babies she knew she could probably not care for adequately unless she got some major endorsements for being such a freakshow.

The Octomom has spawned a musical, a reality show pitch and offers to make pornographic films. And did you hear Denny’s has named a breakfast dish in her honor? Yep, eight eggs, no sausage and the guy next to you pays the bill. Hayyoooooo! I’ll be here all week! Try the veal!


Sure, it’s just an eight-sided geometrical figure, as common as a Stop sign.

But there’s something sinister about the word “octagon,” maybe because the Ultimate Fighting Championship guys fight not in a ring but in an Octagon, or maybe it’s because of the movie Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.


If you’re grooving on the prefix-suffix thing like I am, then you’ll likely know that octosyllabic means a word that has eight syllables. Here are two: unconstitutionality and electroencephalogram. “Octosyllabic” can also refer to a type of eight-line verse poetry, and I would give an example but I’m pretty sure we have a “no poetry” clause in our charter.


Something that is octan is something that happens ever eight days, or so says my big-ass dictionary. But seriously, what the hell kind of word is this? Is there anything, anywhere in the whole world, that happens once every eight days? What is that, like a week on Venus? I just don’t know, people.


Sounds like a cool seafaring vessel, right? As in, “To the Octofoil!” But no, an octofoil, or a double quatrefoil, is actually the ancient military term for the cadence mark of a ninth son. What? Is it me or is this octo thing starting to look like it might bomb?


Ah, here’s the redeemer. I confess I have never celebrated Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany as it was meant to be celebrated, but I have visions of traditionally crafted brews served in giant glass mugs by buxom, dirndlwearing tavern wenches all day long for like two weeks. Cool, if you’re into that kind of thing.