back to article The unit of measure for fatbergs is not hippopotami, even if the operator of an Australian sewer says so

An Australian drainage company has made a valiant effort to define a new standard for weights; in this specific case they're measuring sewer fatbergs in hippopotami. Australia's Broadcasting Corporation reported that Urban Utilities of Queensland was recently complaining about rubbish blocking its sewers. Fair enough; the …

  1. Ochib


    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the plural of Hippopotamus is Hippopotamuses (see also Octopus and Octopuses)

    1. Dr Scrum Master

      Re: Pural

      Aren't hippopotamuses the inspiration for writers to write about horses and rivers?

    2. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: Pural

      Ah, the joys of rendering ancient Greek words in a (nominally) Latin structured language. Does one keep the pluralisation associated with the original word, or with the language system it is used in?

      My personal preference is: if people understand you, how much does it matter?

      1. J27 Silver badge

        Re: Pural

        English is Germanic language, if you want a Latin language you need see French, Spanish, Italian, etc.

        1. TangoDelta72

          Re: Pural

          But I do* not verbs at the end of my sentences put!

          * - "do" is a modal, or "helping" verb, so it's ok up front. :-)

        2. My-Handle Silver badge

          Re: Pural

          If I remember correctly, it's a merge of Norman (Latin / French) and Saxon (Germanic). Following the Norman invasion, Norman was the language used by the nobility and the commoners used Saxon. When English was codified as a language later on, Saxon words were effectively crammed into the Norman (Latin) grammar system. It shows in a few odd ways, e.g. the plural of "Child" being "Children" rather than "Childs" (pluralisation largely being picked based on which word sounded better).

          It also doesn't help that English is one of the most fluid languages on the planet, with words and terms being borrowed from other languages at any opportunity. Examples include French ("Je ne se quoi", "C'est la vie"), Indian ("Bungalow"), Japanese ("Karaoke"). Hell, even "Tamagotchi" ended up in the dictionary.

          1. ravenviz

            Re: Pural

            Er, “je ne sais quoi”!

            And that’s French CSE from 37 years ago!

            But I get your point.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Pural

            Isn't that the reason we eat beef and pork from a cow and pig, but eat chicken and fish from well, chicken and fish....?

            1. WanderingHaggis

              Re: Pural

              But chicken is poultry if your posh.

            2. stiine Silver badge

              Re: Pural

              You might find this interesting, its Tom Scott on words...


            3. Grey_Kiwi

              Re: Pural

              And lamb or mutton from a sheep

        3. General Purpose Bronze badge

          Re: Pural

          >English is Germanic language

          Well, but language is from Latin, as is so much of our vocabulary (Register, computer, database, information). Then there's the Greek bits (hippopotamus, technology, telephone, Bible) and the both bits (television) and the tricky bits (smartphone) .....

          1. Precordial thump

            Re: Pural

            Language is from Latin but speech and tongue are from German. Vocabulary is from Latin but words are from German.

            You often find the basic idea has a Germanic origin, but as soon as the idea gets a bit highfalutin', it's Latin or Greek to the rescue.

            Interesting factoid: out of the whole famous "We shall fight them on the beaches..." speech, the only non-Germanic root was from French: surrender.

        4. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Pural

          "English is Germanic language"

          It's not though. English isn't even a language. It's several languages together stuffed into a trenchcoat.

          And to quote James D. Nicoll: “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”

          1. TimMaher Silver badge

            Re: Stuffed into a trench coat.

            You missed a trick there @imanidiot.


    3. thosrtanner

      Re: Pural

      Clearly the writers of the OED have no respect for Fanders and Swann. Everyone of culture knows you need a regular army of hippopotami for singing 'Mud, mud, glorious mud'

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        Re: Pural

        > Clearly the writers of the OED have no respect for Fanders and Swann

        Ahem, Flanders & Swann

        1. thosrtanner

          Re: Pural

          yeah, by the time i realised that it was beyond editing :-(

        2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: Pural, Fanders and Swann

          Brexit appears to have drasticay reduced the number of ascii(76 | 108)'s in circuation.

    4. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge


      Yeah but it sounds funny. I dunno if you've noticed but we tend to torture the language around here sometimes.


      1. stiine Silver badge

        Re: 'Pural'

        Yes, we do, and we appreciate it with a chuckle or a groan...

    5. Irony Deficient Silver badge

      Re: Pural [sic]

      According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the plural of Hippopotamus is Hippopotamuses (see also Octopus and Octopuses)

      The entry for “hippopotamus” in my copy of the OED begins

      hippopotamus (hɪpəʊˈpɒtəməs). Pl. -muses, -mi.

      reflecting the use of either “hippopotamuses” or “hippopotami” in English.

      Its entry for “octopus” begins

      octopus (ˈɒktəpəs, ɒkˈtəʊpəs). Pl. octopodes (ɒkˈtəʊpədiːz), anglicized octopuses.

      reflecting the use of either “octopodes” or “octopuses” in English.

      1. logicalextreme Silver badge

        Re: Pural [sic]

        Yeah, I was gonna say — I'd personally pluralise it "hippopotamodes" just as a (in my bored mind, anyway) ribald dig at the sort of person that would genuinely use "octopodes" on a day-to-day basis :)

        1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

          Re: Pural [sic]

          Use of the actual Greek plural “hippopotamoi” would probably better reveal an “octopodes”-wielder. ;*)

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Pural [sic]

        >octopus (ˈɒktəpəs, ɒkˈtəʊpəs). Pl. octopodes (ɒkˈtəʊpədiːz), anglicized octopuses.

        How does one anglicize an octopus ?

        I'm assuming that after training they can serve tea and cucumber sandwiches with eight arms simultaneously ?

        Incidentally there is no plural of Hippopotamus because only a single Hippopotamus exists. But the anti-Hippopotamus travels backwards in time so all observed Hippopotamus are the same particle observed at different points of space-time curve.

        This is why its mass can be used as such a stable standard.

        1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

          How does one anglicize an octopus ?

          It probably involves the Oath of Allegiance.

        2. ravenviz

          Re: Pural [sic]

          ...or associate one with football!

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Pural [sic]

          "How does one anglicize an octopus ?"

          Persuade them to denounce the Pope?

      3. The Indomitable Gall

        Re: Pural [sic]

        So we've got the UK, then we've got Australia, which are antipodes. That leaves 6 octopodes to account for -- where are they???

        1. ravenviz

          Re: Pural [sic]

          Probably two in Hilbert Space and Middle Earth!

    6. marcellothearcane

      Re: Pural

      See also graffito/graffiti

  2. jollyboyspecial

    How much is that in London buses?

    Hold on though if you think the plural of hippopotamus is hippopotami doesn't that mean the plural of London bus is London bi?

    1. rafff

      The plural of "bus"

      What is this that roareth thus?

      Can it be a Motor Bus?

      Yes, the smell and hideous hum

      Indicat Motorem Bum!

      Implet in the Corn and High

      Terror me Motoris Bi:

      Bo Motori clamitabo

      Ne Motore caedar a Bo---

      Dative be or Ablative

      So thou only let us live:---

      Whither shall thy victims flee?

      Spare us, spare us, Motor Be!

      Thus I sang; and still anigh

      Came in hordes Motores Bi,

      Et complebat omne forum

      Copia Motorum Borum.

      How shall wretches live like us

      Cincti Bis Motoribus?

      Domine, defende nos

      Contra hos Motores Bos!

      --Alfred Denis Godley

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: The plural of "bus"

        That only works if you use horridly incorrect pronunciation on the Latin parts.


        The one with the rather old yet barely used latin dictionary please.

        1. marcellothearcane

          Re: The plural of "bus"

          Firstly you forgot your coat, secondly nobody knows for sure how to pronounce Latin anyway.

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      No, because "bus" is an abbreviation of "omnibus", which is already plural.

      1. Skiron

        Omninbus is singular - omnibuses is plural.

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Omnis is singular, omnibus is plural

          1. Irony Deficient Silver badge


            The Latin plural declension depends upon the case: omnes for the nominative, accusative, and vocative; omnibus for the dative and ablative; and omnium for the genitive. The English word “omnibus” came from the Latin dative plural (“for all”) via French; the French plural of omnibus is omnibus.

            1. Skiron

              Re: omnibus

              From Chambers Dictionary of English (my emphasis):

              omnibus /om'ni-bəs/

              noun (pl om'nibuses)

              A large road vehicle for carrying a considerable number of passengers of the general public, etc (now usu in shortened form bus)

              An omnibus box

              An omnibus book

              An omnibus edition

              A waiter's or waitress's assistant


              Widely comprehensive

              Of miscellaneous contents

              ORIGIN: Literally, for all, dative pl of L omnis

              omnibus book noun

              A book containing reprints of several works or items, usu by a single author, or on a single subject, or of the same type

              omnibus box noun

              A theatre box with room for a number of people

              omnibus clause noun (eg insurance)

              One that covers many different cases

              omnibus edition noun (TV and radio)

              A programme comprising or edited from all the preceding week's editions of a particular series

              omnibus train noun

              One that stops at every station

        2. Ochib

          Omnibus is derived from Latin and means "to, for, by, with or from everything". ...

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: Omnibus

            Now more commonly referred to as "Boxed Sets".

          2. WanderingHaggis

            O me miserum -- just been taken back 40 years

        3. John Robson Silver badge

          Are they not a collective object, after all they always come in threes...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How much is that in London buses?

      Big, six-wheeler, scarlet painted ones?

      /ob F&S

    4. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge

      It matters not. We're back in Flanders & Swann territory

  3. Skiron

    Come on, this is Australian - surely these should be measured in 'tinnies', no?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      That begs the question; how many tinnies in a roo and how many roo's in a croc?

      1. My-Handle Silver badge

        I suspect the answer to the second is strongly reliant on the answer to the first. Also, how close the roo(s) staggered towards the river having consumed the contents of said tinnies :D

      2. Diogenes

        Tinnies is a unit of time

        As in its a a 3 tinnie drive to get there.

    2. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Empty or part emptied or full tinnies?

      Such will not darken my door. My most excellent homebrew is pressure barrelled with some bottled. I have been known the bottle the dregs of a barrel as well in preference to wasting yet another CO2 canister.

      I understand from perusing the wares of homebrew supply emporia that home canning devices are available but barrels and bottles have served to contain the amber nectar since it's inception so they will do me. Besides my beer is live, canned conditioned beer is not a thing. Live beer is on a different planet to the pasteurised, artificially carbonated mass produced stuff on sale.

      My barrel may be plastic rather than wooden but it is still recognisable as a beer barrel, it has a tap in it for a start.

      I still remember the tour at Pilsener Urquell in Plzen, Czech Republic. You turn a corner in the old laagering tunnels in the chalk and there is a large barrel on its side with a tap in it and plastic cups. It is cool, naturally foaming and the very nectar.

      I made a clone of Harvieston's Schihallion Scottish Pilsner earlier in the summer and it christened my new beer fridge. Live, cold Pilsener naturally foaming. Note to self, leave out the wheat malt next time, the head needs no encouragement.

      1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge

        +1 for a Schhallion clone. I confused the bejesus out of a "got to be electric lager" fan by ordering us both hand pulled pints of same. Cognitive dissonance is a pint best served chilled.

      2. NXM

        If you do home brewing courses I'll sign on immediately

    3. eldakka Silver badge

      > Come on, this is Australian - surely these should be measured in 'tinnies', no?

      What sort of tinnies?

      a) beer served in a can? or

      b) small metal boat (of the type hired on lakes and coastal regions - e.g. the Gold Coast - to go fishing in)?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Can be both. The beercan regatta is on this Sunday in Darwin. Boats made of beercans will sail (possibly) or sink (more likely) off Mindle beach, while hoping there are no crocs in the vicinity.

  4. pardo_bsso

    That's nothing!

    North Americans are known to use washing machines as a unit of measure sometimes.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: That's nothing!

      weigth or volume?

      1. Skiron

        Re: That's nothing!

        Well, they did have an 'Murrican footballer called 'the refrigerator', but I never did find out if that was weight or volume?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: That's nothing!

          I think this was referring to his inertia.

        2. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: That's nothing!

          It was referring to both I suppose, or maybe because he'd eat everything in the refrigerator? He was around 330 pounds which was considered massive at the time (mid 80s)

          Now there are at least a dozen college players who exceed that weight, and unlike with him theirs is mostly muscle.

          1. ravenviz

            Re: That's nothing!

            They need a new superstar, “The Seacontainer”.

          2. Santa from Exeter

            Re: That's nothing! @DS999

            I think that you will find that at the height of his Bears career (Think superbowl) his fitness and muscular prowess was rather undermestimated. As part of the pre-game video on Channel 4 at the time, he was shown performing a standing jump onto a table!

        3. Dynasoar

          Re: That's nothing!

          Volume. No one else could fit in the lift with him. Just like a fridge.

        4. chivo243 Silver badge

          Re: That's nothing!

          That would be William "The Refrigerator" Perry from the Chicago Bears. I think it had to do with a) his size and b) how fast he could empty the fridge... Talk about a bygone era!

    2. theDeathOfRats

      Re: That's nothing!

      And would those be laden or unladen North American washing machines?

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: That's nothing!

        I once pulled our old UK washing machine, fully laden with clothes and water from under the kitchen bench on account of the top of the machine being on fire. It was a herculean effort. I took the top off, turned it over and foot long flames erupted. I put it in the sink, ran the tap then threw it outside and piled snow on it.

        Insulation on two wires had burned off and they had shorted melting the plastic connecting block they went into, this heat then ignited the woodchip underside of the top. I was concerned about the same thing happening to the benchtop.

        Yes I had turned off the power and pulled the plug but still the smoke billowed. A close run thing that was.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: That's nothing!

          "our old UK washing machine.... I put it in the sink,"

          That's either a very small washing machine or a very large sink! I don't think I could lift our washing machine high enough to get it in the sink on my own, even if it would fit :-)

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: That's nothing!

          Back in the 70s, there were two high rise blocks of flats ib New Addington, Croydon that had a reputation for rough tough tenants.

          An Australian colleague was renting a room in one of the flats and I had arranged to pick him up as his car was in for repair.

          As I drove up to the tower block, a washing machine dropped from a top floor balcony, it was followed by a two seater sofa and a matching armchair, the fastest 'rapid furniture removals' I have ever seen.

          I didn't go in to collect my mate, I stayed in the car and tooted the horn.

          1. Potty Professor

            Re: That's nothing!

            There is a high rise Council Accommodation block (Biart Place) near where I used to live, although I hear that it is now empty and scheduled for demolition. It was a regular occurrence for fridges, televisions, sofas, and other weighty objects to appear on the ground outside in the morning, so much so that the Council decided to erect a bomb-proof porch in front of the main entrance in case anyone should happen to be standing below said heavy objects whilst they were in transit from the nth floor.

    3. Dizzy Dwarf

      Re: That's nothing!

      Unladen? African or European?

  5. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Skateboarding Rhinoceri?????

    I must have missed that event at the Tokyo Olympics. Who won?

    ("2.13 skateboarding rhinoceri" in the article.)

    BTW: RE: Plurals

    I understand that an acceptable plural of Octopus is Octopodes. But then the Register Weights and Measures Soviet has also decreed that the Plura of "box" is "boxen" (presumably as the plural of "Ox" is "Oxen"), so what do I know?

    1. jollyboyspecial

      Re: Skateboarding Rhinoceri?????

      Which begs the question: what is the plural of Australian?

      Australii? Bruces? Bruci?

      1. lglethal Silver badge

        Re: Skateboarding Rhinoceri?????

        Et tu, Bruci?

      2. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Skateboarding Rhinoceri?????

        Australian being a common or garden word like the country is made plural by the addition of an s.

        Yours a Kiwi (plural Kiwi).

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Skateboarding Rhinoceri?????

          I didn't think there were enough New Zealanders for it to have a plural?

    2. coconuthead

      Re: Skateboarding Rhinoceri?????

      I suspect Vulture South had a talon in the provision of skateboarding rhinos as a unit of measurement – it's a Melbourne in-joke,

      And that "boxen" is to "box" is as "VAXen" is to "VAX".

      1. Tim Hines

        Re: Skateboarding Rhinoceri?????

        1. coconuthead

          Re: Skateboarding Rhinoceri?????

          According to that article, the skateboarding rhino has a Boris Johnson subunit, with 1 rhino = 15 borises. However, as the reference boris is now lighter than when the article was written, this will no longer be correct. That is, Boris Johnson is an unstable unit.

      2. BHetrick

        Re: Skateboarding Rhinoceri?????

        Pshaw. The proper plural of VAX is VAXim (or, in Saudi Arabia, VAXaat). Little endian, you know.

  6. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    Another opportunity for the soviet?

    Maybe The Register's standards soviet should extend its work to disputed plurals. I'd be willing to honor a ruling that the plural of hippopotamus is hippopotamice or hippopotameese, at least if I were commenting here.

  7. Joe Gurman

    Am I the only one

    ....who thinks the appropriate unit of weight for an article about Oz fathers is the Australian tram?

    But really, Reg Soviet, "weight?" What an earth-o-centric view of things. Please, we need a unit for mass. This is, after all, the spaced age.

    1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge

      Re: Am I the only one

      "Please, we need a unit for mass."

      A cath-O-lic?

      Rhymes with Alco-h-olic.

    2. parlei

      Re: Am I the only one

      The unit of mass must be a "pope".

      1. Xalran

        Re: Am I the only one

        Yeah, but which one ?

        A Roman Catholic Pope ? a Greek Orthodox Pope ? Russian Orthodox Pope ? or an Armenian Pope ?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Am I the only one

          Obviously it depends on what you're weighing

        2. the Jim bloke Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Am I the only one

          Does an anti-pope hold a negative mass?

  8. FrankAlphaXII

    Thinking about Reg Standard units makes me miss some things about classic El Reg

    I've been here a long time (I'm usually more active when I'm bored, was deployed, or was unemployed after getting out of the Army. You can always tell when I'm fucking off or I'm not working actively as I'll usually wind up with a Silver Badge before too long until a new project starts), but this got me to thinking about some of the crazier shit that this publication's done in my time here, like Boatnotes, all the stories about Rockall, the Playmobil reenactment articles, FoTW, the Standards converter, etc.

    Which makes me miss Lester even more than usual because if I'm not mistaken all of those were his brainchild.

    We need more insanity and chaos around here. Just my two cents.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Thinking about Reg Standard units makes me miss some things about classic El Reg

      Thinking about the damage that could be done if the members of el'reg were being secretly organized by some shadowy Internet force, like Facebook and Republicans.

      Then I realized that reg readers could never be organized. Does not play well with others is our motto

  9. Death Boffin
    Thumb Up


    I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Gifting

      I hope you are aware that hippos are responsible for more deaths of people in Africa than pretty much any other bit of the wildlife. They upset small boats, they walk out of the river in the evenings to defecate under the trees (maybe they should be Hippoursomuses instead) and they are bad tempered if they encounter humans then.

      So be doubly careful walking under the trees in the African evening. Both because you might step in something unpleasant and because you might get trampled and bitten.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Gifting

        >So be doubly careful walking under the trees in the African evening

        In case there is a Hippopotamus nesting in it?

        1. Dagg

          Re: Gifting

          Bit like drop bears then.

          Need to work out the African equivalent of vegimite...

    2. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge

      Re: Gifting

      Ah. Now we're getting close. Gayle Peevy knew that the correct plural is Hippopotamuseses.

      Coz Hippopotamuseses love me tooo...

    3. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Gifting

      The great and knowledgeable Michael Flanders has the plural of Hippopotamus as "Hippopotami":

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Gifting

      "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas"

      You may change your mind after seeing one having a dump. They don't just shit like a cow (ie almost a liquid), they also spin their tail like a propeller and spread it far and wide! I suppose if you are an arable farmer or have a large allotment, it might work well as an autonomous muck spreader.

    5. Potty Professor

      Re: Gifting

      Abbie from NCIS used to have one, it was a Plushie, and it farted when you cuddled it.

  10. Ivan Headache

    For some reason I can’t fathom…

    I want to know how you can weigh a bridge.

    1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

      I want to know how you can weigh a bridge.

      • Step on a scale to weigh yourself, then step off.
      • Step on the same scale while holding a bridge, then step off.
      • Subtract your weight from the combined weight of you and the bridge; the difference is the bridge’s weight.

      1. Ivan Headache

        Re: I want to know how you can weigh a bridge.

        Had a problem with that.

        Step one was fine but step two got me into real trouble.

        I compromised by doing step one, the taking a shoe off and doing step two without the bridge.

        I got back on the scale for step three.

        Now I know how much I weigh with only one shoe on.

      2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: I want to know how you can weigh a bridge.

        Go to your nearest weighbridge...


    Devon Fatberg

    The Devon Fatberg is listed as an official unit of length by The Register at

    Which measurement should be used... length or weight?

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: Which measurement should be used... length or weight?

      You should also use it for a few of the more obscure measurements in physics, such as the coefficient of restitution (zero) and viscosity (infinite).

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