English Language Musings

I have heard that the English language is much more difficult to learn than many other languages.  What I do know is English has continued to evolve over the years, and there are different versions of it as one travels around the world, and even around our own country.   I also know it is becoming increasingly adulterated. English is one of four languages I speak, yet my grammar, diction, punctuation, spelling, etc. are all highly suspect. My father, who only had a 9th grade formal education, spoke the “Queen’s English,” and was a “master of the English Language.” I, unfortunately, cannot make those claims.

In spite of my challenges with the language, I have some pet peeves when it comes to English.  Here are a few with which you may or may not be familiar: alumni, criteria, data, and associate degree.

  • Alumni – the word alumni is the plural of alumnus, which is the masculine or general form of alumna. So, one should not say “I am an alumni of ….” One can be an alumnus or alumna (female) of … Saying one is an alumni of is using poor grammar.  Just saying ….
  • Criteria – criteria is the plural of criterion. Therefore it is one criterion, but many criteria. Again, just saying.
  • Data – this is one that has truly been adulterated and gained popular acceptance. Data used to be, (underscore used to be) plural, the singular form of which was datum. Now data is accepted as singular or plural.
  • Associate degree – now here is one that I struggled with until recently. So I checked with “Grammar Girl” on the internet. You know if it is on the internet, it must be true J However, for those of you interested in more academic sites, you can go to https://www.rit.edu/upub/academic-terminology or https://wmich.edu/writing/rules/degrees.

According to Grammar Girl, the correct way to state this degree is “associate degree,” never “associate’s degree.” However, it is correct to say “bachelor’s degree” and “master’s degree,” not “bachelor degree” or “master degree.” It is correct to say “I have a bachelor of science degree in….” But it is not correct to say, “I have a bachelor’s of science degree in….” Therefore, I have concluded that the first college degree one can receive, as well as the final degree one can receive, are treated very similarly.  Simply put, I have never heard anyone say, “I have a doctorate’s degree in….” It is always, “I have a doctorate degree in….” The same way one should not say, “I have an associate’s degree in…” One should say, “I have an associate degree in….”

Having said all that, from my readings of various catalogs and college websites, it appears that the “associate degree” is going the way of the word “data,” where alternative forms are acceptable, or the wrong form becomes the norm.

Just my musings on a Friday….

I look forward to receiving comments from those of you who are linguistically gifted, or those who just speak English in general. By the way, an English professor (Dr. Carrie Nartker) checked this before I posted.



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