The rule is simple enough. Words of Greek origin are made plural with -es and words of Latin origin are made plural with -i. For example, octopuses, cacti. But is ´syllabus´ Greek or Latin?!
And so while I´m driving I look it up in the Online Etymology Dictonary. I found the story so funny, I´ve decided to share it here. The confusion is all based on a mistake!
syllabus (n.)1650s, "table of contents of a series of lectures, etc.," from Late Latin syllabus "list," ultimately a misreading of Greek sittybos "parchment label, table of contents," of unknown origin. The misprint appeared in a 15c. edition of Cicero's "Ad Atticum" (see OED). Had it been a real word, the proper plural would be syllabi.
But it wasn´t a real word, so the proper plural* is, in fact, syllabuses!
*Well, that depends on if you´re a descriptivist or prescriptivist. Language is evolving and in time, the common vernacular becomes what is correct blah blah blah.
Dr. Hall said:
Interesting detective work, Chela! But I would closely check the OED itself to see how the word has evolved.
Please remind Michael that everyone in academia (which is the only place one finds a "syllabus") uses "syllabi" as the plural. It doesn't matter whether or not he is "right." Three million teachers can't be wrong. It may be time for him to find another linguistic windmill to tilt against.
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