Thread Tools
Old 12-01-2005, 12:24 AM
Guest
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Kentuckiana
Posts: 718
Using the word 'alum' in place of alumnus/alumna?

During my upbringing, I learned that the terms alumnus, alumna, alumni, and alumnae were unique in that in the English language they retain the Latin suffixes related to gender and plurality.

'Alumnus' and 'alumna' are singlular masculine and feminine terms respespectively meaning a graduate or former student of a school, college, etc.

'Alumni' and 'Alumnae' are plural terms having the same meaning otherwise. 'Alumni' is used in the case of a mixed-gender group.

The above is definition is what I learned anyway.

I have heard the term 'alum' (sp?) in a couple formal speeches used in place of alumnus; one of those speeches was at a graduation ceremony. I kinda winced when I first heard this term. The second time I heard this term makes me begin to second guess what I was taught, but I looked up all four of the proper incarnations of alumnus and reassured myself that I was correctly taught. I can only guess on the spelling of 'alum' or 'alumn' as it were since I don't recall ever seeing it in writing.

So I ask my fellow Dopers: Is the term 'alum' commonly used? Is it more commonly used than alumnus and alumna? Do you think such usage would be acceptable in formal speech?

I personally would prefer to say that "I am an alumnus of <insert school name here>." YMMV
Old 12-01-2005, 12:56 AM
I Am the One Who Bans
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 78,234
I think it's usually an informal thing. Or sometimes it might be because most people don't know Latin. I often hear people say "alumni" when referring to a single person, especially an alumna. So they just skip the debate and say "alum," which sounds gender-neutral.
Old 12-01-2005, 01:12 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Posts: 11,386
Quote:
Originally Posted by ArchitectChore
During my upbringing, I learned that the terms alumnus, alumna, alumni, and alumnae were unique in that in the English language they retain the Latin suffixes related to gender and plurality.
I'm not so sure about the "unique" claim. I've heard the similarly formed terms beatus/beati and beata/beatae in Catholic usage to describe singular and plural males and females who have been beatified e.g. Blessed John has been beatified, not canonised. He's a beatus, not a saint.
Old 12-01-2005, 02:16 AM
Guest
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Richland
Posts: 965
We interrupt this broadcast for a special announcement ...

When I saw the thread title (and I'm not trying to be a smart-ass here) I couldn't help but think in terms of my own profession where alum doesn't refer to alumnus but rather is a shortened form for aluminum sulfate (and before I get ganged upon I will qualify that as being the hydrated form of the salt) used in water treatment plants.

Now back to your regularly scvheduled program.
Old 12-01-2005, 02:30 AM
I Am the One Who Bans
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 78,234
Quote:
Originally Posted by Waterman
When I saw the thread title (and I'm not trying to be a smart-ass here) I couldn't help but think in terms of my own profession where alum doesn't refer to alumnus but rather is a shortened form for aluminum sulfate (and before I get ganged upon I will qualify that as being the hydrated form of the salt) used in water treatment plants.
I thought of that stuff, too - because I saw it in Looney Tunes and it always confused me why it made Sylvester's mouth shrink.
Old 12-01-2005, 03:09 AM
Guest
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Richland
Posts: 965
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marley23
I thought of that stuff, too - because I saw it in Looney Tunes and it always confused me why it made Sylvester's mouth shrink.
Ignoring the sodium or potassium component for a moment, alum is the salt produced (in a condensed description) from a weak base (aluminum hydroxide) and a strong acid (sulfuric acid) that is acidic enough to induce the same effect as lemon juice.
Old 12-01-2005, 03:15 AM
Guest
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: My Own Private Iowa
Posts: 15,380
I have an Alum Block given me as a stocking stuffer last Xmas. It is an excellent post-shave astringent and can also be used as a pre-electric-shave treatment.
Old 12-01-2005, 08:17 AM
Charter Member
Charter Member
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Philadelphia
Posts: 38,721
If we're sidetracking into professional musings, I'll often use "alum" as shorthand in writing clues (where shorthand is the rule of the game); for instance, in refering to an actor from a defunct show ("Laugh-In" alum Johnson, e.g.).
Old 12-01-2005, 08:44 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Schenectady, NY, USA
Posts: 40,768
Back when I was in college, it was considered inappropriate to use "alum" to substitute for any form of the word. It was also considered inappropriate to use "frat" for "fraternity." They were both considered the lowest form of slang.

In the 30+ years since, both words have become much more accepted. I've seen banners made by colleges at official events saying "Welcome alums." Eventually, it will be an accepted synonym for "alumni," especially since you need a gender neutral version to refer to a mixed group of male and female alums (someone would probably object that "alumni" means males).
__________________
"Deck us all with Boston Charlie,/Walla Walla, Wash., an’ Kalamazoo!/Nora’s freezin’ on the trolley,/Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!
Purveyor of fine science fiction since 1982.
Old 12-01-2005, 10:20 AM
Guest
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 5,514
I live in a big university town. They don't seem to be familiar with the different forms of the word, because there are license plate frames and bumper stickers saying "I'm an FSU alumni!" all over the place. No you're not, ya freakin' d'oh-head! There's only one of you. And you paid all that money to go there! Doesn't it behoove you to call yourself by the proper word?
Old 12-01-2005, 12:14 PM
Guest
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: The Empire State
Posts: 6,672
I work at a college. "Alum" is okay if it is for something casual or social, such as goofy flyers that say things like "Calling all alums: don't miss the annual sock hop!" I am very strict though about always using the long form alumni/alumnus etc for anything formal, like written records, press releases, awards and recognitions.
Old 12-01-2005, 12:47 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Anderson, IN,USA
Posts: 14,584
Alum, pronounced ah-LUM, is a common shortened form, like grad. The two words almost mean the same. An alumnus (me, for example) can be an ex-student who did not graduate. All grads are alums, but not all alums are grads.
Old 12-01-2005, 01:26 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: San Jose
Posts: 2,912
I also work at a college, in the division that includes the alumni office. I agree with delphica that "alum" has become acceptable in informal usage, and it's even starting to appear in more formal settings as well. I expect (and welcome) that "alum" will eventually be more common than "alumnus/alumna" -- it's much simpler to work with. The plural "alums" is sometimes used, but not as often since "alumni" works for a mixed group.
Old 12-01-2005, 03:15 PM
Charter Member
Charter Member
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Not here. There.
Posts: 18,705
I wonder how long it'll be before we start seeing the plural 'alumnis'?

The decline of the old Latin endings may be due very much to the fact that the pronunciations change very confusingly depending on whether one is using the Anglicized Latin pronunciation of doctors, lawyers, and most scientists, or the "Italianate" pronunciation of classicists, historians, and Latin teachers.

Italianate pronunciation:
-------------------------------
Alumnus ( 'a-LOOMM-noos') - one male graduate
Alumna ('a-LOOM-nuh') - one female graduate
Alumni ('a-LOOM-nee') - two or more male or mixed gender graduates
Alumnae ('a-LOOM-eye') - two or more femal graduates

Anglicized pronunciation
------------------------------
alumni ('a-LUM-eye')
alumnae ('a-LUM-nee')

See that? Depending on how you pronounce Latin, the two plural words swap pronunciation, almost.
Old 12-01-2005, 04:13 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Aug 2000
Posts: 4,706
Quote:
Originally Posted by fishbicycle
I live in a big university town. They don't seem to be familiar with the different forms of the word, because there are license plate frames and bumper stickers saying "I'm an FSU alumni!" all over the place. No you're not, ya freakin' d'oh-head! There's only one of you. And you paid all that money to go there! Doesn't it behoove you to call yourself by the proper word?



I have no idea whether this F.S.U. Place is good or bad, but it amuses me to think that perhaps the people you see are actually paid by a rival university to give people a bad impression of F.S.U.

Unfortunately, I fear that might not be the case. Have them all thrown out and sent to the salt mines, I say. Ah, I just thought: does "F.S.U." stand for "Florida State University"? If so, perhaps these people could be thrown to the alligators. I am sure tourists (and others) would pay to watch.

Seriously, though, if they can't cope with “alumna” etc., then they would look less stupid if they would only stick to using “former student” or some other equivalent.


Celyn = Curmudgeonly old fogey today.
Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 06:26 AM.

Copyright © 2017
Best Topics: sleeping in meetings dogs and ham devil's strip spider solitaire strategy successful kidnappings is albuterol addictive cheating blowjob driveway mesh six legged spiders penguin nativity scene knee bends stay hidden eye odor tail light cost fishtail car otter pop names twc start over bananagrams vs scrabble dragonskin bulletproof vest ph of dna distance around track one crutch pentecostal jean skirts clique names pornhublive review jfk jack bactrim alcohol rudi gernreich pubikini smells like skunk reddit lolita eyesight suddenly worse patton slaps rko movies what happened to huey and riley's parents only one thing could have stopped our movement what does mi5 stand for 2003 honda civic overheating while idling do k&n filters improve gas mileage what is a bare drive battery pack for lighted wreath does lowes cut lumber crochet fingerless gloves for men boneless skinless chicken breast weight buying tobacco online laws radio tuner card for pc play some skynyrd man how does ruth chris cook steak home depot power tool sale what did bartlett's letter to santos say flight attendant message boards how does a belt buckle work best john steinbeck books how did astronauts survive the moon temperature social security replacement card how long what do the numbers on glasses frames mean how did henry foots die become a professional driver my house smells like gasoline red mage final fantasy 1 feet don't fail me now quantum of solace synopsis seat at end of bed windows won t close