Being a Latin pedant

Educated in Catholic schools, both in Ireland and England, I always thought Latin was a widely taught subject. But it is not.

My qualification in it is not great – a B at ‘O’ level in 1982 – but I can see that puts me at a great advantage compared to the majority of the population, who really know no Latin at all. And I do like Latin.

So recently I decided to use tori and not toruses in the computer science half of my life and would always prefer referenda to referendums in the politics side.

And here is the real reason for this blog – it annoys the hell out of me when I see Americans refer to past students of what they insist on calling “schools” – when they mean “universities” – as an alum. An alum, as ane fule kno, is a mixture of two metals such as one might find in a filling in a tooth (update: fool here is me, it’s a potassium salt – thanks to “dental pedant” for pointing that out and leaving me humiliated). The words they want are either alumna or alumnus. Now there is an issue of gender-specific language here, but no more than there would be if we were speaking French, German, Spanish, Italian or whatever. So, please, either use the Latin correctly or don’t use it at all.

Middle-aged rant now over. Nothing to see, move along now.

(In fact all my Latin was taught at Finchley Catholic High School by the legendary Mr Perdoni)


7 responses to “Being a Latin pedant”

  1. We use “alum” (emphasis on the second syllable to distinguish it from tooth filling material) for the same reason we use “cop” rather than “copper” (that would be “Peeler” to you): it’s shorter. Remember, we’re the ones that brought you SMS-speak and Twitter. We’re a concise lot. 🙂

  2. hmmmm, I think it took you about ten years to catch up with Europe on texting 🙂 Cultural cred points for knowing what a Peeler is though. The other half came to congratulate me on the blog – that was a first: she’s even more of a Latin pedant than me, think she has a Scottish Higher in it 🙂 And she’s taken to running a Latin club in her school.

    Guess we should close this one off by saying de gustibus non est disputandum.

    1. Dental pedant Avatar
      Dental pedant

      Amalgam is what goes in teeth. Alum is a salt containing aluminium

      1. Ok, “dental pedant”, you got me 🙂 Alum is a potassium salt

  3. Hello McMenamin,

    I wanted to answer you one of your comments in your post “Even if P=NP we might see no benefit”, but I saw I can’t do it anymore in that page, maybe due to problem with my internet. I was the person who claim a possible demonstration of problem “P versus NP” in my paper “P versus UP” which is published in IEEE,

    I’m working in that problem as a hobby since I graduated. I sent a preprint version in Arxiv with the intention of find some kind of collaboration. I also tried to find help in another blogs. But, finally I decided to sent to a journal of IEEE a new version which differs of the preprints in Arxiv that I withdrew because it had some errors. Then, I waited and after a revision in a IEEE journal I was published in 17th August 2012.

    However, I wrote this paper in Spanish and I had the same version in English. So, I decided to sent again to Arxiv, but they denied me that possibility, therefore, I used a pseudonymous. I also uploaded other papers with that name which are not so serious but reflect the work that I’m doing right now as a hobby too.

    I love Computer Science and Math. I’m working right now in a project so important as P versus NP, but I do all this as a way of doing the things that I like most although my environment doesn’t allow me at all. I also tried to work with other scientists which have invited me to work with them since I published my paper in IEEE. Indeed, I don’t want to be annoying with my comments, I just searching the interchange with another people who have the capacity to understand my work, that’s all.

    Good Luck

    1. Frank,

      Thanks for the comment. Comments get closed off on old posts to deter spammers. I will post your comment up on the blog as a way of getting more attention.


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