Monday, March 21, 2011

Because You're Not Going To Hear It Anywhere Else

I hope you'll forgive my post, but instead of rolling my eyes and feeling grumpy about this, I've decided I'd just better say something and get the word out.

Last week during Sunday School our instructor read us a letter to the admissions committee at BYU. After the first sentence, which read " . . . and I am an alumni of BYU." I turned to my neighbors and we shook our heads. This is a common error around here, but there is no such thing as an alumni. Of any institution.

This is because alumni is a Latin word and the endings change based on the gender and number of people you're talking about. If you are talking about one man, he is an alumnus. If you are talking about a single woman, she is an alumna. If there is a group of women only, they are alumnae and if you are speaking of a group of either all men or men and women, they are alumni. If you don't believe everything you read on the internet, you can check here or here or here.

This is why people get confused. For example, the Alumni Association, the Alumni House and Alumni Board are all correct uses, because they're talking about the whole group, male and female who have attended the institution. But that means that people are often unaware of the other forms. Like the woman who worked in Alumni Relations and kept correcting my husband when he told her I was an alumna.

Now if this is too much to remember, you can just say you "graduated from X" or "matriculated at X" and you'll do just fine. And if you already knew all this, you can go read Zina's malaprop post, which is really high art (or homonym hell). These posts make me want to laugh, cry and vomit simlutaneously.

8 comments:

Lois said...

Good thing I never graduated from anything. Now I don't have to worry about using the wrong form.

You remind me of the book "The Accidental Tourist" where the siblings are complaining about people yelling "Bravo" instead of "Brava" after a women performs.

Lois said...

Oh, crap, I typed "women" instead of "woman" in my comment. Incorrect Grammar! AAAAAHHHH!

Curtis said...

And I would love to know who the woman was that corrected Rob. Not knowing the difference and using incorrect forms in Alumni Relations is a huge sin. My boss would burst a blood vessel or two in his temples.

jenlinmin said...

Three cheers for grammar geeks!

Lois said...

Even worse than bad grammar, I misquoted! In "The Accidental Tourist" they talk about the difference between "in cognito" and "in cognita." Sorry.

Today I was driving behind someone with a "Alumni Brigham Young University" license plate holder. I hope there were many graduates in the car!

Mary Ann said...

Curtis, the woman Rob was talking to was working there in 2001. I'll ask, but I doubt if he remembers her. However, on that topic, we noticed in the Visitor Center today in the Alumni house that they got it wrong twice on the advertising display!
Thankfully the kids didn't notice or care.
And Lois, I'll have to put Accidental Tourist on my list to read. I've only seen the movie.

Frau Magister said...

Wouldn't Alumni Association, Alumni House and Alumni Board actually require the use of the genitive? So shouldn't they be Alumnorum Association, Alumnorum House and Alumnorum Board?

Darlene Young said...

As an alumnapatootette, I'm grateful for this post. And I'd better not let my Jimmer-smitten almost-8-year-old see that BYU party post. You are SUCH the party mom!

Good to see you.

BTW, the captia below gives me the following for my word verifier today: "pubugal," which is, I happen to know, another world for "a gal who has published."