Pied Octopi

This is a many-tentacled* story, so please hold on tight to your pirate hat:

My job entails wearing many hats, but on the first day of each summer camp "wearing many hats" is my mandate. On these days I escape my art teacher persona to ham it up on stage and "let it all hang out" as we used to say in the Sixties. This is not the right moment for me to get distracted by idioms involving the word hang, but if you've got the time, this is the place. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

So after I skipped around the stage wearing Little Red's hood and carrying a basket of goodies, I changed to the rat hat. The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a very scary story. It ranks right up their with the mice in "The Nutcracker" and the flying monkeys in Oz. "Does anyone know what pied means?" Yes! Yes! I do! I do! One student started telling us the digits, 3.14159265358979323846. No, not that pi. We pantomime throwing a clown cream pie in his face.

Did Harold ever draw a quiche with his purple crayon? What about a Frito pie? Harold did draw the nine kinds of pie that he liked best? And what about Old King Cole with the four and twenty blackbirds?

We are still looking for the meaning of pied. I'm pleased to learn about the Heckle and Jeckle magpie connection.

pied 1382, as if it were the pp. of a verb form of M.E. noun pie "magpie" (see pie (2)), in ref. to the bird's black and white plumage. Earliest use is in reference to the pyed freres, an order of friars who wore black and white. Also in pied piper (1845, in Browning's poem based on the Ger. legend; used allusively from 1942).

pie (1) "pastry," 1303, from M.L. pie "meat or fish enclosed in pastry," perhaps related to M.L. pia "pie, pastry," also possibly connected with pica "magpie" (see pie (2)) on notion of the bird's habit of collecting miscellaneous objects. Not known outside Eng., except Gaelic pighe, which is from Eng. In the Middle Ages, a pie had many ingredients, a pastry but one. Fruit pies began to appear c.1600. Fig. sense of "something easy" is from 1889. Pie-eyed "drunk" is from 1904. Phrase pie in the sky is 1911, from Joe Hill's Wobbly parody of hymns. Pieman is not attested earlier than the nursery rhyme "Simple Simon" (c.1820).

pie (2) "magpie," c.1250, from O.Fr. pie (13c.), from L. pica "magpie," related to picus "woodpecker," Umbrian peica "the magpie," Skt. pikah "Indian cuckoo," O.N. spætr, Ger. Specht "woodpecker" (see magpie).

pie (3) printers' slang for "a mass of type jumbled together" (also pi, pye), 1659, perhaps from pie (1) on notion of a "medley," or pie (2) (see pica).

And so, so, so, so..."pied" means multi-colored.

Went to see Johnny Depp and OrlandoBloom in "Pirates of the Caribbean--Dead Man's Chest" yesterday. I'm fond of pirates, but not of nightmares. How many children will have octopus nightmares after watching the movie's Davy Jones?

One of the best ways to get over nightmares is to learn about the subject. An octopus is a fascinating, curious, smart creature, although difficult to pluralize. I have two books I love to share with elementary students, Karen Wallace's Gentle Giant Octopus, and the Smithsonian book, Octopus' Den.

1758, genus name of a type of eight-armed cephalopod mollusks, from Gk. oktopous "eight-footed," from okto "eight" + pous "foot." Proper plural is octopodes, though octopuses probably works better in English. Octopi is from mistaken assumption that -us is the L. noun ending that takes -i in plural.

*And now for a little song from Nat King Cole, who may or may not have liked pie.

Love is a many-splendored thing,
It's the April rose that only grows in the early spring,
Love is nature's way of giving a reason to be living,
The golden crown that makes a man a king.
Once on a high and windy hill,
In the morning mist two lovers kissed and the world stood still,
Then your fingers touched my silent heart and taught it how to sing,
Yes, true love's a many-splendored thing.

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