Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sticky Situation At LA Times! Cacti - Or Cactuses? And When Is A Cactus A Succulent And A Succulent A Cactus?

First, from the LA Times Correction Section:

Simi Valley mall - A photo caption in some editions of the Oct. 24 California section with an article about a mall opening in Simi Valley said workers were planting cactuses at the site. They were planting agaves.

Now to answer the second question, first, a cactus is always a succulent as all cacti are succulents, but a succulent is only a cactus - when it is a cactus and not another kind of succulent. An agave, thus, is always a succulent but never a... cactus. Too bad the Times in their correction did not take this opportunity to education their readers on this commonly made error.

Now as for the plural of cactus; the preferred and more correct word is cacti, though with the rapidly declining standards of the proper usage of the Latin/English terms in the popular (and not so popular, i.e. - the LA Times) press, the word 'cactuses' has reared its ugly head. However, even in these increasingly debased times in which we are forced to live, our Lord-God GOOGLE agrees that cacti if the preferred term by a margin of 3,171,000 to only 174,000 for the term the LA Times so mistakenly uses.


Anonymous said...

Cactuses. Latin is dead.

It's been cactuses in the AP Stylebook for more than 2 decades.

If you want to talk about the degradation of the language, look, or listen, no further than broadcasting. "An historic," nouns converted to verbs, Spanish place names mispronounced. And sentence fragments, too. 8^)

Brady Westwater said...

It may be in a style book, but I hope not as the first choice. And as a fomer cacti collector - and I was particularly proud of my world class Mammillarias - the word cactuses never was never heard spoken. Lastly, the GOOGLE search showing 3,170,000 to 170,000 for the two versions makes a clear case for the preferred usuage.

As for 'an historic'- I confess I find myself making that type of error because it sounds better and have to correct it in my writing fomr time to time. And I still have fond memories of an irate internet diatribe about the mispronouncing the 'Spanish' word -Jacaranda - the writer not knowing that the word it is Portuguese.

As for the whole noun/verb thing - I can live with that... within limits. After all, it is an evolving language.

Sentence fragments, however.Thumbs up! In the correct context, of course.

Anonymous said...

"And as a fo[r]mer cacti collector"? Regardless of whether you collected cactus, cactuses, or cacti, I think you'll find you were a cactus collector, just like someone who collects postage is a stamp collector and not a stamps collector.