While this thread on linguistics has mostly disappeared locally by way
of my delete key, it somehow has managed to persevere on a listserve
dedicated to towers and antennas. Perhaps those who seem so concerned
about this should understand one primary issue about language.
PEOPLE own the language.
It is ours. It doesn't belong to books or academics.
WE decide how carefully we want to keep it. Not the books or the
WE decide how and where it needs to stretch or adjust. Not the books
or the academics.
And, frankly, there are a lot of syntactical aspects and screwball
spelling aspects of English that accomplish no more than make it hard
to learn. Any of those go away and there will be no mourning in this
And, in spite of academic groaning about the dying language arts, the
language is still 99.77% what it was when I went through grade school,
NO credit whatsoever to those who turned language skills into a
In spite of all the disincentive reaped from school, WE know, all by
ourselves, that the language needs to stay essentially constant to be
of any use. It has remained as constant as it has because WE decided
that it WOULD.
Some language is timeless, but WE decide what is so precious that we
leave it alone and keep its timebound oddities. We still go to see
Shakespeare in a form of English no longer commonly spoken. Except in
that torture called "school", academics can't force us to go hear The
Bard. We do that ourselves because we want to. And THAT is the reason
The Bard is still with us.
I have gone out and done a minor amount of counting. By overwhelming
majority in the stuff I read:
The people have decided that antennas is spelled "antennas", that
agenda is singular and the plural is "agendas", that media (especially
in computers) is both singular and plural, that a single alga is not
worth mentioning, probably because it is such a fuss to set just one
As usual, the books are lagging behind, the academics are complaining
we aren't reading our dictionaries and are brutalizing the language.
To them I would say, have you ever seen a good tool without nicks,
dings, scratches and paint on it, unless it was never used?
I'm not worried. We are still raising young poets who can turn a
phrase in today's terms that stops me in my tracks and makes me smile.
Language constantly changes. Good thing. So does life. Get a grip.
* May we! Get back to discussions of antennas?
God bless Sister Ephrem, long since gone on, from St. Camillus High
School, Corbin, Kentucky, who for two years made the study of Latin a
trip of adventure, discovery, and exploration of the roots of our
language. She knew that the language would have to become OURS to have
any staying power.
And a thousand deaths to the fourth grade teacher whose name I can't
remember, who made us recite endlessly, and killed my recesses with
sessions writing syntax over and over on the board. To this day I only
remember the anger and not what I was forced to write.
Syntax never made any sense to me until Mrs. Fisher managed to explain
it all to me in the seventh grade.
If you insist on Latin, among other unpleasantries, it was all caps
and had no spaces between words. The many forms of Latin words greatly
outnumber those of English, and leave me uncertain of the proper
ending of "antennae" in the Latin.
There's antenna, antennam, antennarum, antennas, antennae, and
probably more, depending on how it's used. "Antennas" is just as Latin
as "Antennae" and has the advantage of matching English plural
Antenna = The antenna fell down.
Antennae = The antennas fell down.
Antennam = The wind destroyed his antenna
Antennas = The wind destroyed his antennas
Antennarum = The discussions of antennas continued endlessly
I can't seem to find my high school Latin text...but after all that
time Sister Ephrem is still with me.
So WHO decided we would keep "antennae" and not "antennas" from the
----- Original Message -----
From: "Maurizio Panicara" <email@example.com>
To: "towertalk" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Saturday, August 24, 2002 10:16 AM
Subject: [Towertalk] Antennas vs. Antennae
> Many English words, especially in biology, medicine, and law, have
> adopted from Latin or Greek.
> Although most English words form their plurals simply by adding the
> 's', this is not true of these words.
> Examples are listed below.
> LATIN SINGULAR PLURAL
> alumnus (male) alumni
> cercus cerci
> fungus fungi
> ocellus ocelli
> palpus palpi
> tarsus tarsi
> alga algae
> alumna (female) alumnae
> antenna antennae
> coxa coxae
> # exuviae
> lamella lamellae
> larva larvae
> maxilla maxillae
> pupa pupae
> seta setae
> tibia tibiae
> agendum # # agenda
> bacterium bacteria
> cilium cilia
> datum # # data
> flagellum flagella
> labium labia
> medium media
> labrum labra
> ommatidium ommatidia
> operculum opercula
> ovum ova
> sensillum sensilla
> sternum sterna
> tergum terga
> tympanum tympana
> foramen foramina
> corpus corpora
> femur femora
> genus genera
> # # # faeces (feces)
> axis axes
> navis naves
> penis penes
> species species
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