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Odds and ends - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Odds and ends
Much calmer now. I love my grandmother. She is going to help me get my furniture here, so I don't have to live in the bare apartment.

Is it odd that I'm really looking forward to getting a lot of old, used furniture? I mean, even more than I would be to getting new stuff. My mom said, "Oh, there's that ugly old dresser with the linoleum on top, that your doll collection is on... I don't suppose you'd want that? I know I don't."

And I'm like, "Wow! The low dresser! With the ugly green linoleum on top! I always had that!"

My move to Boston was accomplished in stages--first to a dorm room, then to an itty bitty apartment, then to a bigger apartment with a roommie who had a houseful of furniture already and no room for all my stuff, and now, finally... my stuff. I've been panicked about life stuff lately, but I'm really, really looking forward to seeing my doll collection, my real desk (too fragile to put my computer on, so it's mostly decorative), my wicker shelves, my dark wood mirror, my pretty wooden table, and my ex-step-grandfather's smoking chest, which is a handy little endtable with storage space, which happened to sit right beside the chair where grown-ups used to read to me when I was little. It's like... wow. Continuity is going to come back to my life. Granted, it's ugly green linoleum continuity, but continuity is continuity, for a'that and a'that. I'm really looking forward to being surrounded by stuff I know. I think that will make my head work better. I won't object to eventually getting some new stuff, but I wouldn't want to have all new stuff, you know? Or am I just odd that way?

Okay, unrelated, I was looking for some Tonks fics at FFN, and didn't click on any. I happened to see one that included in the summary, "I'm a metamorphmagi."


I could see accidentally using "metamorphmaguses" as a plural--JKR, after all, uses "patronuses." But using "metamorphmagi" as a singular? JKR does use the word, if I recall, but even if you don't know the rules of Latin plurals, the context makes it clear that "metamorphmagi" is a plural word. And it's used in the same scene as Tonks describing herself as a "metamorphmagus." Doesn't the word sense alarm go off, if the two words have been seen so close together?

And yes, I cringe when people say, "I'm an alumni of..." No. You're not. Alumnus, alumna, just "alum," whatever. I'll even let it skate if several women (and no men) say they're "alumni" instead of "alumnae," but "alumni" is a plural form. I've never taken a day of Latin in my life and I know that much.

That said, I really want to learn Latin. It strikes me as a useful sort of thing to know. Then again, I might have skewed priorities on what's useful. But I love knowing how words break down and where they come from. Give me Latin and Greek and maybe some old English and Norman French. I think I could make use of that.
41 comments or Leave a comment
cambryn From: cambryn Date: September 26th, 2005 05:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Latin is more useful in the 'oo, fun, I know stuff' way and not much in the 'this will truly come in handy' way. I know because I took it for 6 or so years. :) If you truly are curious you should get one of those 'study aid' sheets they sell at book shops. It covers the basics of the cases etc.
(Am such a nerd.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 26th, 2005 01:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can also get my hands on Latin for Dummies. ;P Or Sorcerer's Stone in Latin, if I feel like it. (Who says it's not useful?)
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: September 26th, 2005 05:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I bought Philosopher's Stone in Latin, and the guy at the bookstore laughed at me and said, very matter-of-factly, "you're a geek".

Well, it was at the used bookstore! It was relatively inexpensive! Would you have said no??

But do I read a word of Latin?

cambryn From: cambryn Date: September 26th, 2005 05:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know many a person who owns that book.
I personally never bought it, though, as I'm very cheap.

Actually, Latin helped me alot on SAT's and gave me a much larger vocab than I would have had otherwise. It also gives me a font of 'useless' information that can be very entertaining. (Also, fo rht emost part, I know the plot of that HBO series 'ROME' now, as I studied that history for years.)
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 26th, 2005 11:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes! I know have a point to doing latin the next few years.
Thanks! I was wondering why the heck I was studying Latin, which is a dead language, however you spin it.

Yet if the roots are dead the tree is dead.
terrathree From: terrathree Date: September 27th, 2005 12:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Not dead...Just evolved. :-) (Into all the Romance languages, and so on.)
amelia_eve From: amelia_eve Date: September 26th, 2005 10:01 am (UTC) (Link)
I eat off my grandmother's Blue Willow dishes every night, and have for the past 15 years. I love them, and I love knowing that my sister has the other half of the set, and we continue the family tradition. I totally understand your longing for the green linoleum.

But learning Latin as an adult requires a level of dedication I couldn't maintain. For starters, there are seven declensions of each noun. My brain is not wired for that type of memorization. And there's no conversation practice to make sense of things. It's cool to know it, though.
volandum From: volandum Date: September 26th, 2005 11:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm? Each noun is just one declension, but gets 5-8 cases. One can just use tables, though they slow one down.
amelia_eve From: amelia_eve Date: September 26th, 2005 02:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Further illustrating my point that trying to learn Latin as an adult was a hopeless exercise for me.
volandum From: volandum Date: September 26th, 2005 02:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
daisan From: daisan Date: September 26th, 2005 01:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Icon love!!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 26th, 2005 01:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yes. Dishes. My grandmother has her grandmother's cast iron frying pans, and I think those came from the grandmother's mother-in-law. They're still in great shape, so what they heck? She uses them.
likeafox From: likeafox Date: September 26th, 2005 11:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Ugh. Botched Latin endings bother me too. (Although, for some random reason I'm completely nonplussed about the whole horcruxes thing... weird.) And if bunch of women say they're alumni outloud, there's not exactly any way to tell if they have it right or not, but writing that down? Annoys me. Not that there's much chance of a group of only women alumnae, but still. :P
volandum From: volandum Date: September 26th, 2005 11:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, "apparation" annoys me.
amelia_eve From: amelia_eve Date: September 26th, 2005 02:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you -- I find it most cringe-worthy.
volandum From: volandum Date: September 26th, 2005 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I dislike it because I think that appar- leads to an E or I sound. Why do you find it cringe-worthy?
amelia_eve From: amelia_eve Date: September 26th, 2005 07:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Because we already have a perfectly good English word: "apparition."

It grates on me in the same way as "orientate."
volandum From: volandum Date: September 26th, 2005 07:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Absolutely! Thank you.
tunxeh From: tunxeh Date: September 27th, 2005 12:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Actually we have two perfectly good English words: "apparition" and "appearance", both of which describe the act of appearing. "Apparition" does have more of an otherworldly connotation than "appearance", but if JKR used "apparition" instead of "apparation", she would, I think, also have needed to use "appear" instead of "apparate", which would have sounded quite mundane to my ears.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 26th, 2005 01:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, you know... if the come from an all-female school, I guess. There's probably less of a chance of an all-male group, but the masculine is the default for mixed groups, so "alumni" is not in danger of verbal extinction.
sophonax From: sophonax Date: September 26th, 2005 11:20 am (UTC) (Link)
'Alumni' as singular has always bugged the hell out of me too. It's especially maddening when I hear otherwise smart and educated people using it--doesn't ANYONE KNOW A GODDAMN THING ABOUT LATIN ANYMORE???

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 26th, 2005 01:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Alas, the answer is "apparently not." Hell, I've always been interested in linguistic origins, and I still can't say I properly know a thing about Latin. (Though at least I recognize a plural when one bites me, Greyback like, on the face.)
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 26th, 2005 12:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
The worst mangling of "alumni" I've ever seen is someone using "alumnae" as the plural of "alumni."

Yes, you read that correctly. They thought that "alumni" was the singular and "alumnae" was the plural. I find it rather bizarre that a person who hadn't been exposed to enough Latin to recognize gender or recognize that "alumni" is already plural had even encountered the word "alumnae."
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 26th, 2005 01:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Ouch, just... ouch.
narnian_dreamer From: narnian_dreamer Date: September 26th, 2005 02:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, according to my high school Latin teacher, "alumnae" should be pronounced with the "nae" rhyming with "pie," while "alumni" should have a "ni" that rhymes with "see."

So actually, the way we pronounce it in this country, all-male and mixed classes are calling themselves "alumnae."

terrathree From: terrathree Date: September 27th, 2005 12:41 am (UTC) (Link)
What your teacher taught was the Classical pronunciation, then. There's also the anglicized pronunciation where "alumni" rhymes with "pie" and "alumnae" with "see"...yes, totally reversed. :-) Or there's the ecclesiastical pronunciation where "alumni" rhymes with "see" and "alumnae" with "say"...They're all valid, but if one pronounced both words to rhyme with "pie", that would be inconsistent - using two different modes of pronunciation at the same time.
From: sleepingfingers Date: September 26th, 2005 02:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I won't object to eventually getting some new stuff, but I wouldn't want to have all new stuff, you know? Or am I just odd that way?

No, you're definitely not odd - or, if you're odd, then I guess I am, too. Living in a house full of new furnitures would strange - very strange, indeed. It wouldn't feel like living at your own house/apartment, and the strangeness could take a while to get used to.

Latin is definitely a very useful thing to know. It makes me wish I had taken Latin instead of Spanish as my foreign language class. Ah, well, I can always take it in college. :)
harriet_wimsey From: harriet_wimsey Date: September 26th, 2005 03:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm all about family continuity. It definitely makes sense. Even the ugly things can be special. I was very excited when Mom found my great-grandmother's old kitschy hamburger press and gave it to me, and a lot of the things in my bedroom as a kid belonged to my mother and aunt. When we visit my grandparents, I always try to sleep in the room with that same great-grandmother's childhood bedroom set. So I sympathize.

On the Latin grounds, I always wanted to learn, but never really had an opportunity. I'm not certain if they even had it at my college. "Alumni," though, I think may be making its way into common usage. I wouldn't be surprised if were in the dictionary as an acceptable singular in our lifetimes.
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tunxeh From: tunxeh Date: September 26th, 2005 06:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
And what drives me bonkers is when a supposedly high-level medium, like The New York Times uses words like "stadiums" or "forums" or "indexes."

That doesn't bother me. They're writing in English, not Latin.

The one that does bother me is when people can't backform the correct singular from the latinate plural; the one I see most often is "vertice" (apparently pronounced ver-ti-see) instead of "vertex".
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tunxeh From: tunxeh Date: September 26th, 2005 08:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
English borrows words from other languages. I mean, should we accept spelling rendezvous as rondayvu because "we're writing in English?" Well, not in my opinion... :)

As far as I can see, whether we spell and decline things as in the original or in an Anglicized form depends primarily on whether the word was fully incorporated into the language before or after the orthography was fixed.

English parley vs French parlée
English parliament vs French parlement vs Latin parliamentum
English parochial vs French parochiel vs Latin parochialis
English parody vs Latin parodia (apparently a deliberate borrowing by Ben Johnson, but it stuck)

And even in your example, the English spelling is rendezvous while I believe it's hyphenated, rendez-vous, in French.

Sticking with the alien declension carries to me a connotation that it's still a loan word, not really English.

Medium, stadium, forum are old enough words, used long enough as purely English words, that I see nothing wrong with using English declinations for them. Trying to force them to be Latin again seems as wrong to me as the prescriptive grammarians who tried to force English grammar to be Latin (no split infinitives, no terminal prepositions, etc).

From a descriptive point of view (e.g. as measured by Google hits) stadiums is easily winning against stadia, and forums overwhelmingly against fora. So if you want to talk about English as she is spoke, and not as you would like it to be, use the English declension. Mediums vs media is a more interesting case — I think of the former as meaning plural people who contact the spirit world, and the latter as an aggregate noun for various communications industries. "Stadia", to me, means not plural sports arenas (note, not arenae) but rather plural archaic distance measures.
terrathree From: terrathree Date: September 27th, 2005 12:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Sticking with the alien declension carries to me a connotation that it's still a loan word, not really English.

That's it exactly...the further incorporated into English a loan word is, the more likely it will be given common English plural forms instead of its proper "foreign" ones.
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From: _kneebiter Date: September 29th, 2005 02:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Inconsistency in English? Oh nose! Most words once co-opted into English regularize their plurals, but some (especially the more technically-minded ones, which can have a 'less' co-opted feel to them) keep the other languages' regulars as irregular exceptions. So I'm not bothered by "viruses and bacteria," or for that matter "stadiums and arenas" for "stadia and arenae". When I think of indices, I think of stock markets, not the ends of books. And admit it, if the Starbucks person said, "Okay that's three coffeen ventii, one chocolate and two cinnamonim" you'd double-take. (It would have been four drinks, two of them chocolate, but I haven't the faintest notion what the Aztec pluraization rule is. Coffee is from Arabic, and cinnamon is from Hebrew.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 26th, 2005 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ugh, I know. I've had the fight with bosses on "Indices"--a large sign in the Buffalo library identifying "Indexes" drove me to complain, but I was told, basically, that the common folk couldn't be expected to know such things and would therefore be misled by an unfamiliar word. Never mind that the context would make it obvious.

"Alum." Is that so hard, if you want to be all gender-neutral? It works as a plural and a singulur (kind of like "deer," as in caught-in-the-headlights), and it doesn't offend the ear. Happily, though, a high school kid with no Latin also hears how wrong it is and wrinkles his nose at it, so we're not without hope on that front.

Alas, "forums" and "stadiums" seem to be things we'll need to learn to live with.

There's no excuse for saying "media" when you mean "medium"--neither is an obscure word--but I can understand some verb confusion sometimes, since "the media" are so often referred to as a single entity, when referring to the press (and broadcast) establishment. In that, it's almost like the United States--before the Civil War, it was always plural. Now, although the word is plural, we generally use the singular verb, because it's a singular entity, but if you think about it, it sounds odd. Hence our habit of just saying "America," though it drives Canadians, Mexicans, and South- and Central Americans quite mad, I'm sure.
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 26th, 2005 07:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's not singular. "We the people" is the subject, "of the United States of America" is just a descriptor. At the time, they thought in the plural, and it's more along the line of saying, "We the people of the thirteen united states of America..."
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: September 27th, 2005 03:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is it just me, or does saying 'alum' feel madly off to everyone because it reminds them of potash?

From: _kneebiter Date: September 29th, 2005 02:44 am (UTC) (Link)
I can't vouch for everyone, but it's not just you. :)
terrathree From: terrathree Date: September 27th, 2005 12:49 am (UTC) (Link)
That said, I really want to learn Latin. It strikes me as a useful sort of thing to know.

Hear, hear! Okay, so I'm a Latin teacher and probably therefore biased, but I definitely think it's been one of the most gratifying and fulfilling things I've learned....the most comprehensively instructive...not perhaps always useful in the practical, everyday sense, as e.g. algebra; but useful in giving me points of reference on so many fronts. Language, literature, history, etc. And all the handy abbreviations borrowed in English, q.v. throughout this paragraph. ;-)

If indeed you want to learn it, I recommend starting at http://wheelockslatin.com/ - in my opinion, the best textbook for adult learners of Latin; plus there are links to online study groups using Wheelock's.
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