Dear Lola,

My son and I were watching a cartoon about an octopus and stumbled on an interesting question. When two octopuses get into a fight, do their tentacles ever get tangled? If so, how would they ever get free of their foe?


Curious Creature

Dear Curious Creature,

Before we proceed any further, I think we need to address the octopus in the room – which plural form will be used for octopus. While there are three common plural forms in English, I prefer to use the oldest form, octopi. I think it is the most sophisticated and avoids any unfortunate stutters when trying to pronounce the more modern plural, octopuses. I do not think the plural form octopodes deserves any attention until the octopus grows legs and walks on land.

Now on to the important matter of octopus arguments!

Imagine having eight arms and finding yourself tangled up with your sworn enemy. Try as hard as you might, the tentacle tangle only gets tighter. Then you find your suction cups sticking to everything they touch as your body gets squeezed tighter and tighter. Once opposing suction cups have engaged with one another, it’s virtually impossible to pull them apart. Suddenly you find yourself in a 16 arm struggle that renders both parties incapable of moving away from each other.

I imagine even an octopi hug could be extremely dangerous!

Many octopi have found themselves in this very scenario over the centuries of their existence. With their playful nature and need for personal space to hunt for food, there are endless possibilities for a tentacle entanglement. Thus the octopi were forced to solve this problem before mayhem broke out across the species.

Imagine the giant ball of ocean tentacle yarn that could have developed!

Octopi decided to focus on developing very large brains. They read books, formed societies for the preservation of free tentacles, and ratified treaties to prevent any unnecessary entanglements. In fact, the octopi formed a delegation of judges whose sole job was to determine which irresponsible octopus caused arguments and hand down their punishment.

Unfortunately, this had an unintended side effect on the octopi society.

In order to avoid huge legal bills and years tangled up in the court system, octopi eventually became rather solitary creatures. Since even an overly jubilant hug could lead to a tentacle entanglement, octopi decided to forgo all social activities. Gone were the merry days of festivals and parades. The octopi preferred to focus on reading and word games. At some point, I suspect the octopi will be in the running for the most intelligent creature on this planet.

Behind the mighty canine, of course.


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