« historians on the civic ed. bill | Main | against intuitionism »

July 22, 2003

some pedantry

I'm en route to Indianapolis for the summer retreat of the Kettering Foundation.

Here is a completely unrelated and pedantic issue, but I have to get it off my chest. There is (or should be) no such word as "syllabi." "Syllabus" is a fourth declension Latin noun, so its plural is not "syllabi" but "syllabûs" (pronounced "syllaboos"). Since handing out the "syllaboos" on the first day of class would make anyone look like the world's most extreme nerd, I use "syllabuses"—perfectly good English.

For exactly the same reason, there are no "octopi." "Agendae" is another Latin-sounding word that isn't grammatically valid. The word "agenda" is already plural, meaning "the things that need to be done." If we want to make it plural, then "agendas" will do. I haven't heard "agendae" much, but Google finds 2,760 uses of it.

While we're at it, "hoi polloi" means "the people," so "the hoi polloi" means "the the people." Which is kind of like saying "the La Brea tar pits" (literally translated as "the The Tar tar pits.")

There, I've said my piece.

July 22, 2003 3:51 PM | category: none


Site Meter