Had I waited until I was in my twenties to attend college, I likely would have chosen a more practical course of study. I may have become an engineer, an accountant, or majored in business administration. But instead, I was eighteen and chose to study Latin and Political Philosophy. Upon learning this, it is clear that people often teeter between thinking I am a high-brow intellectual or a raving idiot. I like to think I fall somewhere in between. Regardless, there is almost always a joke made about how useless Latin is in 2014. The funny this is, Latin is actually fairly useful. Well, it is at the very least more useful than Political Philosophy…
Latin crops up quite often in our daily vernacular, but our use of it is sloppy at best. There was a time when all schoolchildren studied Latin, but as that is no longer the case, most people don’t realize that they are misusing Latin words. For example, have you ever referred you yourself as an “alum” or to your group of friends as “alums” of an institution? I hear intelligent people do it all the time. Guess what, you are not an alum. Look it up–Webster’s Dictionary defines alum as, “a potassium aluminum sulfate.” Guilty of this mistake? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. See here, here, and here for just a few news stories that used either “alum” or “alums” in their headlines in the past twelve hours.
To avoid this mistake, keep the below in mind:
- Alumnus = one man
- Alumna = one woman
- Alumni = group of men
- Alumnae = group of women (pronounced like alumni)
- Alumni = group of men and women
Whether or not you care, now you know.
That’s All She Wrote