diploma
Posted: 19 February 2014 08:35 AM   [ Ignore ]
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The mention of writing materials, in the thread on beech/book, reminded me of an interesting word in common use, which has an uncommon and little-known etymology: DIPLOMA.

Diploma meant originally (more or less) “a document folded into two”. The earliest diplomas were certificates of Roman citizenship, issued by the Emperor to non-Roman citizens who had completed 25 (or 26 in some units) years’ service in the Roman army.  They consisted of two sheets of copper alloy, engraved with a certified copy of the Imperial decree of conferral of citizenship, and with particulars of the bearer and his service. The two sheets were bound together and sealed. Ex-soldiers armed with such a diploma could present it to the local governor of the province where they settled, get themselves inscribed in the local register of Roman citizens, and usually receive a grant of land. The diploma was, in effect, an official letter of introduction: hence, in later cultures, a “diplomat” came to be a person armed with official credentials from one government to another.

a number of military diplomas have survived (a few, almost intact) and are highly prized by archaeologists. Google has some pictures of them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_military_diploma

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Posted: 20 February 2014 10:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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That’s a fascinating etymology, lionello. The Romans took it from the Greek. Here’s what OED says:

< Latin diplōma a state letter of recommendation, an official document conferring some favour or privilege, < Greek δίπλωμα (-ματ-), (lit. a doubling), a folded paper, a letter of recommendation, later a letter of licence or privilege, < διπλοῦν to double, to bend or fold double, < διπλόος double. Compare French diplome (Aubert 1728).

First cite is 1645. Interesting that an alternative plural form is given, diplomata, haven’t come across that.

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Posted: 20 February 2014 10:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Isn’t that a standard Greek plural form, aldi? --- like stoma, stomata (that’s the only parallel I can think of—no Greek mayvin, I.)

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Posted: 20 February 2014 02:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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lionello - 20 February 2014 10:50 AM

Isn’t that a standard Greek plural form, aldi? --- like stoma, stomata (that’s the only parallel I can think of—no Greek mayvin, I.)

Another common one is stigmata.

The dictionaries host others but they are not common. When was the last time you heard someone say traumata or lymphomata?

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Posted: 20 February 2014 04:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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lionello - 20 February 2014 10:50 AM

Isn’t that a standard Greek plural form, aldi? --- like stoma, stomata (that’s the only parallel I can think of—no Greek mayvin, I.)

It is. What I should have made clear is that I haven’t run into it in English (diplomata, that is). I know that many terms from Greek and Latin hung on to their native plurals for a while in English (of course not a few still do), I just hadn’t seen this.

[ Edited: 20 February 2014 08:51 PM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 20 February 2014 06:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The older usage of diploma and diplomatic survives in manuscript circles. A diplomatic edition of a manuscript attempts to follow/describe the contents of a single manuscript without emendation (unlike a normal critical edition which usually takes into account a number of manuscript versions of the text, and unlike a facsimile edition which uses photos—or in the past drawings—to duplicate the manuscript exactly). A diplomatic translation produces the original text on one page and the translation on the facing page.

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