Oct 12, 2007

Ignorami Versus Ignoramuses

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Little did I know when I posted about bibliovandalism and selfish ignorami that I would be stepping on such a rhetorical landmine.

Kate Gladstone of Handwriting Repair emailed me about the possibility that the plural form "ignorami" is incorrect, and that one of her teachers would likely have beaten me with a yardstick had I attended the same school as Kate:
Dear Mr. Brooks —

The word "ignoramus," a Latin verb-form meaning "we do not know," has no Latin plural-noun form. Therefore, when used as an English noun it correctly pluralizes as "ignoramuses."

(Or, as I learned from a teacher who showed more erudition than tact: " 'Ignorami' is used by ignoramuses.")

Kate Gladstone
Handwriting Repair
Kate is correct that "ignoramus" is the first person plural of the Latin verb ignorare ("to not know"). In my defense, I relied upon the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which lists ignorami as an acceptable plural form of ignoramus.

Yet even Merriam-Webster has trouble reaching a consensus on the ignoramuses versus ignorami debate. In the 1994 Dictionary of English Usage, the editors at Merriam-Webster specifically argued against the much-maligned "ignorami." However, in the interest of throwing the weight of this mighty little blog on one side, I suggest that diligent writers resist the urge to use ignorami, except as a weapon to tweak the cheeks of grammar mavens, or if you want to puzzle the employees of a real estate franchise.

4 comments:

togakure ryu said...

people that argue "ignorami" over "ignoramuses" have way, way too much time on their hands. It is asinine to argue over it.

Hooda Thunkit said...

I contend that some people NEED to argue..., and win.

Hmmmmpppphhhh!

mud_rake said...

Two ignoramuses were arguing about the three platipi who sat near the mongeese.

Anonymous said...

Since the nominalization of ignoramus is itself facetiously incorrect, I see nothing wrong with carrying it a step further. After all, people are now using transition as a verb; if that doesn't grate on your ears more than "ignorami", you're .... ignorant.