Saturday, September 29, 2007

Mad Latinist makes the Wall Street Journal

Regular Internal Monologue commenter Mad Latinist (aka Justin Mansfield) gets a mention in this Wall Street Journal article about the Latin Wikipedia, Vicipaedia Latina:

Most of the work among the editors is collegial, though now and then debates break out. One involved the proper neologism for "computer." Vicipaedia calls it a computatrum, despite the vehement opposition of editor Justin Mansfield, who says the word is just bad Latin.

"You can't use 'trum' at will to make new words," insists Mr. Mansfield, also a classics grad student. " 'Trum' actually fell out of use around the time of the Punic Wars. It's like 'th' in English. You can say 'warmth,' but you can't say 'coolth.' "

Mr. Mansfield lobbied for computatorium but was outvoted. He prevailed, though, with "particle accelerators," the atom smashers used by physicists, which, per his suggestion, are known on Vicipaedia as particularum acceleratorium.

Mad Latinist adds some context on his own blog:
Computatrum. When I lobbied against it was actually back in the mid-nineties, before wikipedia existed. On the Grex Latine Loquentium computatrum and other -trum words were (and are) very widespread, and it really bothered me. But I couldn't convince very many people on this topic. And as proper usage is determined more by what people actually say than by what they should say (OK, that's not exactly true in a dead language, but it makes sense in cases like these), I eventually gave in to the masses on this one word. Computatrum is just too wide-spread now to fight, and if you can't beat 'em.... But I do still fight the use of this suffix on most other words. So Gomes presented this whole sequence, over 10-years long, as something that happened on Wikipedia, when really it was decided long before.

But in general the article is good, and I'm very pleased!


Blogger Sarah said...

Go Mad Latinist!!!! : ) You kick some classic butt!

6:45 PM, September 29, 2007  
Anonymous Mad Latinist said...

Thank you both!

I've got to go out and buy some print copies, like right now.

7:29 PM, September 29, 2007  

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