distinguished alum

Barbara Need bhneed at GMAIL.COM
Sat May 2 18:31:25 UTC 2009

On 1 May 2009, at 1:06 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:

> 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/

Well, I am an alum and not yet silver-haired! :-) I never thought to
include the silent "n", though I could see doing so. I suspect I said
it long before I thought to write it and so when I wrote it I went
with a pronunciation spelling.

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

I don't know why I don't have alums for the plural. I don't know if I
"made this up" or if I found it and adopted it. It is entirely
possible that I use the zero-plural precisely because I am a linguist
and like to play with my words (plural of spouse anyone?). At this
point, however, alums sounds wrong.


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

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