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ALUMNUS

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ALUMNUS

Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:33 pm

• alumnus •


Pronunciation: ê-lêm-nês • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A male who has attended or graduated from an educational institution.

Notes: Today's Good Word is one that has held on tenuously to its Latinate plural: alumni [ê-lêm-nai]. This plural is also used to refer to mixed male and female alumni. If you are a female grad from an educational institution you are, of course, an alumna (plural alumnae).

In Play: We are alumni or alumnae of the schools, colleges, and universities we graduate from: "When someone offered to endow the Saddam Hussein Chair in Political Justice at Mustapha Gahten's alma mater, several alumni wrote letters of protest." The implication is that you have learned the lessons, passed the tests, and have been certified knowledgeable in some area of knowledge: "Izzie Badenov is an alumnus (with honors) of the state penal system."

Word History: In Latin, alumnus means simply "foster son, disciple". It comes from the verb alere "to nourish, raise, bring up". This same verb underlies the adjectives almus "nurturing", seen in the name of the institution we graduate from, our Alma Mater "nourishing mother". The same root, al-, is found in many other words having to do with growing up: altus "tall, high" found in English altitude. The root of this word emerged directly (unborrowed) in English as old, elder, and the ald in alderman. (Today we thank Ardis J. Pierce for nurturing our vocabularies with his suggestion of today's Good Word.)
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Re: ALUMNUS

Postby Slava » Sat Aug 25, 2012 3:05 am

While alumnus/a are still used in certain fora, it is becoming more and more common to see them reduced to alum/s, to avoid any gender specifity.
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Re: ALUMNUS

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat Aug 25, 2012 9:34 am

I thought it was just another trend to shorten or abbreviate words.
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Re: ALUMNUS

Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Aug 25, 2012 1:37 pm

Avoidance of gender specificity is destroying clarity in grammar. The writers of the NIV Bible have produced a version that uses the plural "they" to mean the singular "he or she". I have only heard this, not read it. My Bible is the OLD NIV (an oxymoron?). This new convention puts the burden of a double meaning on "they". Writers could use my convention "she/he". True, putting "she" first might sound like I am mocking women's libbers. To put "he" first would certainly be taken as sexist. You can't win for losing. How about "ladies and gentlemen and all bald headed babies"?
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Re: ALUMNUS

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat Aug 25, 2012 11:30 pm

I like the authors who sort of rotate he and she, using first one and then the other. He/she makes a road bump to smooth reading. When I write, I try to cast the sentence so as to have the plural they. Sometimes one can use "one," or you can use "you," but that's not always smooth either. I vote to go back to a generic "he" without sexist overtones. After all, Spanish and other languages make all nouns masculine or feminine, and it has nothing to do with actual gender.
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Re: ALUMNUS

Postby Slava » Sun Aug 26, 2012 12:21 am

Perry Lassiter wrote:I vote to go back to a generic "he" without sexist overtones. After all, Spanish and other languages make all nouns masculine or feminine, and it has nothing to do with actual gender.

The problem is that "he" is sexist, no matter what we think. Yes, many other languages have genders for nouns, but what happens when they speak of a generic "person" doing something? It's always "he" unless the subject under discussion is obviously only related to females.

I must admit, I'm in the "they-with-a-singular" camp. It's one of those changes languages undergo, and one with which I can abide.
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Re: ALUMNUS

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Aug 26, 2012 5:00 pm

To be sexist or not to be sexist. When muddy grammar rears its ugly head, I choose what many would call sexist.
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Re: ALUMNUS

Postby Audiendus » Thu Aug 30, 2012 9:06 am

Slava wrote:I must admit, I'm in the "they-with-a-singular" camp. It's one of those changes languages undergo, and one with which I can abide.

So, what do you use as the reflexive form of the singular "they" – "themself" or "themselves"?
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