Mr. Blanchard is to be applauded, in these lamentably unclassical times, for spotting the improperly used third declension ending on a first declension Latin noun, i.e. personAm and not personEm (Shingle Oct. 8). But even the grammatically correct ad personam is an anachronistic attempt to render more politically correct the classical expression ad hominem. The latter is presumably objected to because the Latin noun homo carries a male gender connotation. But my Latin dictionary lists “human being” as the primary meaning of that noun, not “man”. In Latin, if one wished to specify gender, one would usually use the word vir, not homo. In that same dictionary, however, the primary meaning of persona is listed as “mask”. Other meanings given for persona include “part” and “pretence”. Consequently— from the etymological point of view at least — ad personam is clearly no lexical improvement over the time-tested ad hominem.
However, none of this linguistic carping affects the fundamental right of any citizen to pour scorn upon elected officials and other public persons.
Those of us with a sufficiency of wrinkles will probably recall the case of the newspaper cartoonist who depicted then-BC Premier Bill Vander Zalm pulling wings off flies. The presumed intention of the cartoonist was to show that his target was not doing nice things. Vander Zalm sued for defamation. He lost.
The judge argued, if I recall correctly, that Mr. Vander Zalm had placed himself in the public eye and thereby opened himself to public criticism for his perceived actions. In so doing, the judge went to the very heart of what it means to live in a democracy.
Thanks David(s). Our use of the word ‘personam’ actually came out of a discussion with former Shingleista Mike Wallace, who jokingly recommended the switch from ‘hominem’ for just the male-centric reasons you propose. Mike used to trade puns in Latin with other language lovers, so he knew the replacement would be wildly inaccurate. But he argued for it nonetheless; an argument we accepted for the whimsical, and the modern versus the historical, linguistic connotations. ~ Ed
|The Flying Shingle, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada ~ editor@FlyingShingle.com||Web design: Innovative Illusions (Paul Rudyk) ~ webmaster@FlyingShingle.com|