Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A short English / Latin lesson

The English language is said to be one of the most eclectic in terms of where it has sourced words from over the last thousand years or so.  And this has meant that for every rule there are always exceptions!  No wonder it is so difficult to learn.

Why am I posting about this? Well the word that has entered the lexicon of almost every library staff member in SA is consortium, though I often hear people using the word consortia.  Consortium/consortia is one of a small group of words in English that come from and follow the Latin form for singular and plural. There is a group of Latin derived words in English which have a singular ending which is "um" but the plural version of the words end in "a". 

Examples that you would be familiar with are medium (singular) and media (plural). We don't often use the singular word much these days, though occasionally someone might say something like "using the medium of radio as opposed to other media."

Others include stadium (singular) and stadia (plural).  We don't often use this plural version of the word, though it is in our dictionaries and was used widely years ago.  It would appear that the plural version now being used is stadiums, which is technically incorrect but seemingly acceptable today.

And I am sure there are other examples, but I cant think of them at present.  (And as an aside it is interesting that there is a similar ending construction in Greek - where we have a singular criterion, but a plural criteria.)

Which brings us to consortium (singular) and consortia (plural).  So here in SA we are building a consortium.  However when I work with people from the SWIFT consortium in Victoria and the Kotui consortium in New Zealand it could be said that these 3 consortia are working together.

It is nothing to get too worried about - but I figure that as I am primarily responsible for thrusting this Latin derived word upon us all I should be responsible for assisting us all to use it correctly.  So - all the best with any of your publicity material, council reports or other places where you want to talk about your library joining the One Card consortium!

Update: as a former teacher - how could I have forgotten curriculum and curricula?!

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