It’s been a pet peeve of mine for ages.
I understand that not everyone studies Latin (nor did I), but it feels to me as if you shouldn’t be allowed to get a college degree without being required to memorize this one little thing:
“Alumni” means a group of people who graduated from a school. Therefore, it is never correct to say “I am an alumni”. If you are male, you can say “I am an alumnus”. If you are female, you can say “I am an alumna”. If you prefer not to specify, or if you are nonbinary (yes, ancient Romans had language constructs for that), then you can say “I am an alum”.
Here’s the full set of options:
- alum — ONE person of NEUTER or UNKNOWN gender
- alumnus — ONE MAN
- alumna — ONE WOMAN
- alumnae — GROUP OF ONLY WOMEN (i.e. a sorority)
- alumni — ANY GROUP (can be mixed, unknown, or men-only)
I almost feel a school’s accreditation should be at risk if it creates formal announcements that demonstrate a misunderstanding of these words. (I’ve had schools of mine tell me “An alumni will speak at the commencement…”, or former professors tell me “You should meet so-and-so, she’s an alumni.” AAARGH!)
In my book, you wouldn’t get to be an alum unless you can say it correctly.