distinguished alum

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed May 6 01:46:40 UTC 2009

At 8:46 PM -0400 5/5/09, Wilson Gray wrote:
>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.

I concede the difficulty of settling on a perfect solution to the
"alum" problem, but I don't think substituting "graduate(s)" in a
global search-and-replace really does it.  At many institutions,
there may well be a graduate club or association, but this is
distinct from an alumni/ae club or association, since the former
represents current graduate students rather than undergraduate
degree-holders. And what about referring to the graduate alumni/ae?
Are they the graduate graduates?  A few years ago we had an alumni
weekend (yes, using the masculine generic), which assembled former
undergraduate linguistics majors as well as former PhDs from the
department.  I don't think we could have billed this as a graduate
weekend, for various reasons.  A linguistics BA/PhD weekend, maybe,
but I don't think that would have been quite as elegant, and for all
the development office knows wouldn't have been as successful at
scaring up the hoped-for alumni/ae donations...er, graduate and
graduate graduate donations.  A Yale linguistics degree-holder(s)
weekend?  Maybe, but maybe not.


>On Fri, May 1, 2009 at 12:07 PM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at stanford.edu> wrote:
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>  Sender: ?  ?  ?  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>  Poster: ?  ?  ?  Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
>>  Subject: ?  ?  ? 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. ? "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. ? 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". ? but there are
>>  also some (though many fewer) occurrences of "an alumnae of". ? 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. ? 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:
>>  ? >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.<
>>  ?  http://bloggingprojectrunway2.blogspot.com/2006_05_01_archive.html
>>  ? >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 ...<
>>  ?  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:
>>  ? >Dickson, born in Yonkers, NY, graduated from Wesleyan University in
>  > 1961 and was honored as a Distinguished Alumnae of that institution in
>>  2001.<
>>  ?  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. ? on his website, he says that he "now concentrates on writing
>>  about the American language, baseball, and 20th century history".
>>  arnold
>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>>  The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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