distinguished alum

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 6 00:46:22 UTC 2009

I deprecate it as a vulgar error. What keeps people from saying simly,
"I'm a graduate of [Name]" or some such, now that the classical
education is dead and English doesn't distinguish grammatical gender
in any meaningful or useful way. If the classical languagesare only
noise to you, what's wrong with English?

And I really doubt that the average non-classicist has any concept of
the the distinction in either meaning or pronunciation between -I and
-AE or the meaning of the nueuter plural, -A.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

On Fri, May 1, 2009 at 12:07 PM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at stanford.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â distinguished alum
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> "alumnus" and related forms have been troublesome for speakers and
> writers of english for some time, because they're unassimilated bits
> of latin. Â "alumni" is very often used as a singular, as a way of
> avoiding the choice between the sex-marked "alumnus" and
> "alumna" ("alum" is another solution), although many have deprecated
> this as a vulgar error. Â it is sometimes used with reference to a
> woman, as in "Are you an alumni of Green Mt. Camp for Girls?".
> so there are plenty of occurrences of "an alumni of". Â but there are
> also some (though many fewer) occurrences of "an alumnae of". Â you can
> see how this could come about: the pronunciation of -I and -AE in
> latin plurals is vexing, and though many people insist on /ai/ and /
> e/, respectively, an /ai/ pronunciation for both is not uncommon, and
> then the question is how to spell it. Â the association of the -AE
> spelling with women remains strong, so almost all the 640 occurrences
> (dupes removed) of "an alumnae of" that i googled up refer to women.
> but there are a few referring to men:
> Â >I arrived to school late due to an art bid meeting this morning-but
> they had a celebration for Sue with a "Congratulations Mom" cake and
> punch. And one of our fabulous kitchen employees made up t-shirts with
> Harold's picture on it stating "We're proud of West Babylon's Top
> Chef", (He's an alumnae of our school district as well) that many
> staff members are wearing today.<
> Â  http://bloggingprojectrunway2.blogspot.com/2006_05_01_archive.html
> Â >My friend Andrew Kvammen (Andrew's Bad Stuff) is an alumnae of the
> Young Musicians' Orchestra and he was invited to perform at a show at
> Walt Disney Concert ...<
> Â  http://mickieszoo.blogspot.com/2007_06_01_archive.html
> i got into this topic because i came across the following on Paul
> Dickson's website:
> Â >Dickson, born in Yonkers, NY, graduated from Wesleyan University in
> 1961 and was honored as a Distinguished Alumnae of that institution in
> 2001.<
> Â  http://pauldicksonbooks.com/
> (the word is spelled ALUMNI on the Wesleyan (of Conn.) website, by the
> way.)
> this caught my eye because Dickson writes about language, among other
> things. Â on his website, he says that he "now concentrates on writing
> about the American language, baseball, and 20th century history".
> arnold
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