Whose Puppet Are You?—Kae d’Rik Kham SpecGram Vol CLXXXVI, No 1 Contents Reasons Not to Study Linguistics—Part III—Dyspepsia Prater and Cynnie Sizzum

The SpecGram Linguistic Advice Collective

Are you in a world of linguistic hurt? The SpecGram Linguistic Advice Collective (SLAC) will offer you empirical, empathic, emphatic advice you can use!*

Remember, if you can tell the difference between good advice and bad advice, then you don’t need advice! So, if you need advice, trust usand cut yourself some SLAC!


Dear SLAC,

What’s the plural of focus and how do you pronounce it? I’ve seen it spelled <foci>, but do you pronounce that /foʊkaɪ/ or /foʊsaɪ/? Or is it something else entirely? Focuses? Focora? Focopodes? Please offer me your insights on pluralization so I can impress my colleagues with a veneer of superior erudition!

—Trying Hard to Focus

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Dear Tries-too-Hard,

Properly speaking, there should be no plural. You must only focus on one thing at a time, for the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world to multitask.

—SLAC Unit #4d696b61656c

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Dear Trying Hard to Focus,

The plural of focus is topic.

—SLAC Unit #4b65697468

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Dear Unfocused,

I used to think the plural was foucault, but now I’m swinging toward a different plural form, because, in Italian, it’s focacciaat least when I’m focusing on a delicious sandwich. Which brings up another question: is it focusing or focussing? ’Cuz I’m definitely fo’ cussing! See, if you take focus as already plural, then the singular is focme! But if you think the plural actually is foci, then the plural adjective is focineor equivalently cine times fotangentmaking the diameter of a circle a focal chord. By the way, focus is achieved through fronting in Welsh! And, regardless of how you pluralize it, the Ford Motor Company thanks you for buying at least two.

—SLAC Unit #56696e63656e74

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Dear Member of the Folk,

In German, volk-us (“folk-us”) is the ultimate Euro socialist thingy, while volki (“folk-I”) is the ultimate Marxist dialectic, giving us the people vs. the individual. So, foci is clearly the opposite of plural.

—SLAC Unit #4a6f65

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Dear Out-of-Focus,

You need to consult a focus group to resolve this.

—SLAC Unit #50657465

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Dear Trying Hard to Focus,

If it’s a false focus (pl.), it’s faux.

—SLAC Unit #4465616b

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Dear Try Hard,

Clearly the plural of focus is double-vision.

—SLAC Unit #4a6f6e617468616e

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Dear Focus Lost,

You’ve really set the great minds of SLAC into disarray with your question. SLAC Unit #4d696b61656c is clearly correct, SLAC Unit #56696e63656e74 clearly needs some Adderall, and it looks like SLAC Unit #4a6f6e617468616e’s been drinking again. As for your actual question, focopodeswhile not the actual plural of anything will remind people who can at least spell erudition that octopodes is a thingwill provide you with the most impressive veneer of superior erudition which you seek. Good luck.

—SLAC Unit #54726579

* Advice is not guaranteed to be useful, practical, or even possible. Do not attempt at home. Consult a doctor (of linguistics, philology, orin a pinchanthropology) before undertaking any course of treatment. This advice is not intended to cure or treat any disease or condition, inherent or contingent. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental, except when it is not. “Empirical” means that we asked at least two other “people” whether our advice was good; one or more of those “people” may be voices in our own heads. “Emphatic” means that you may print out a copy of the advice for personal use in a medium, semi-bold, bold, heavy, black, or ultra-black weight of an italic or oblique typeface using an enlarged font size. “Empathic” means that deep down, in the darkest recesses of our blackest heart of hearts, we really, really care ♥just not necessarily about you.

Whose Puppet Are You?Kae d’Rik Kham
Reasons Not to Study LinguisticsPart IIIDyspepsia Prater and Cynnie Sizzum
SpecGram Vol CLXXXVI, No 1 Contents