Dead language grammar check
Written by Bwog Staff
In the weeks after securing their diplomas, some classically-minded seniors may be wondering about the ancient language on the symbolic paper scrolls. Bwog tipster Tao Tan went a little further.
“The Latin looked just a bit off to me,” Tao writes. “Specifically, I was wondering how and why they chose to render “New York” (Novum Eboracum in proper, classical Latin) the way they did. On the diploma, New York is rendered in two ways: ‘Noveboracensis’, a Neo-Latin adjectival form, and ‘Novi Eboraci’, a classically acceptable locative.
Fortunately, as I was wandering around the Heyman Center this morning, I ran into Peter Pouncey, the former Dean of Columbia College and, before that, a Professor of Classics. Brandishing these pictures, I asked Peter Pouncey what he thought. After getting over the initial shock that somebody actually noticed (‘What? We must have overeducated you. You’re not supposed to actually be able to *read* your diploma!’), Professor Pouncey explained that having variety in grammatical forms was highly regarded.
However, Dean Pouncey was kind enough to provide a short literal translation of the Columbia College diploma. Basically, the first two lines literally translate as ‘The Trustees of the New York-y University of Columbia, the College formerly known as King’s’ (this is verbatim; Pouncey literally said ‘New York-y’, as ‘Noveboracensis’ is an adjectival form).
Ironically, this leaves Barnard College (diploma at left) as the only Columbia school to even come close to properly rendering ‘Columbia University in the City of New York’
This translates, as Peter Pouncey explained, into, quite literally, ‘The Trustees of the University of Columbia (which happens to be) situated in New York City’. Not the City of New York, mind you.
Anyway, all this is better than the Law diploma, which translates: ‘The Trustees of the New York-y University of Columbia’.”
Way more than we needed to know, but we’re glad someone’s keeping tabs.