distinguished alum

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri May 1 18:06:13 UTC 2009

At 5/1/2009 12:14 PM, Barbara Need wrote:

>I have used alum for both singular and plural for years. I attended
>Swarthmore, a co-ed institution, and have found it much simpler than
>arguing about the Latin vs. English pronunciations of alumni/alumnae.

Apparently Barbara finds it simpler to drop the silenced "n" as
well!  Or is the spelling "alum" reserved for the distinguished,
silver-haired ones?  /end humor/

(I would find it difficult to say "alum" for the plural.  Why not
"a-LUMS", with stress as noted by Laurence Horn?)

But Barbara has long-lived authority for "alum, n.2" (although
spelled "alumn"):
      1683 J. ELIOT Let. in Boyle's Wks. I. ccix, Your hungry alumns
do still cry unto your honour for the milk of the word.

The second quotation is 1910 (still "alumn") -- I eagerly await the
OUD's call for interdatings when they arrive at the A's.

The third is 1930, essentially a dictionary definition, from
_American Speech_, and even in 1974 an explanation seemed desirable:
      1974 State (Columbia, S. Carolina) 15 Feb. 1-B/1 In more
explicit{em}or graphic{em}language, streaking is darting out
(unexpectedly) in the nude and from behind a tree or bush and,
preferably, in front of a carload of staid old alums or grads.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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