Thursday October 29, 2009

A Star on my Diploma

As I mentioned, I defended my dissertation this spring and graduated with my Ph.D.  Woo-hoo!  (If you're interested, you can find my dissertation online.)  When I attended the graduation ceremony, they handed out nice sleeves to hold the doctoral students' diplomas, but inside there were only dummy diplomas.  A couple of days ago, the real one arrived in the mail.  You can imagine how thrilled I was to discover that it contains a grammatical error.

See if you can spot the error.  The diploma looks like this:

The University of Washington

To all to whom these Letters shall come, Greeting:

The Regents of the University on recommendation of the University Faculty and by virtue of the Authority vested in Them by Law have this day admitted

[The Tensor]

to the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

and have granted all the Rights, Privileges and Honors thereto pertaining

Given at Seattle, in the State of Washington, this twelfth day of June, two thousand and nine and of the University the one hundred and forty-ninth.

[signatures and seals]

See that last sentence?  It contains an ungrammatical coordination: this twelfth day of June, two thousand and nine and of the University the one hundred and forty-ninth.  That sentence makes it sound as if this is the twelfth of June 2009 and also the twelfth of the University the one hundred and forty-ninth, whatever that might mean.  I'm pretty certain I can guess how this happened.  Something's missing—can you see what it is?  I'll bet that sentence used to read:

Given at Seattle, in the State of Washington, this twelfth day of June, the Year of Our Lord two thousand and nine and of the University the one hundred and forty-ninth.

...then somebody noticed it's inappropriate to have a religious reference in a diploma from a state school, and they solved the problem by deleting it.  Heck of a job.  Nicely done.

[Update: The Wife pointed out that I also have an MA from the same institution and suggested I check if it has the same error.  It doesn't!  The corresponding line reads: "Given at Seattle, in the State of Washington, this seventeenth Day of December, Two Thousand and Four, in the One Hundred and forty-fourth Year of the University."  They've successfully avoided the error by recasting the sentence.

Furthermore, I have a similarly-formatted diploma-like certificate of doctoral candidacy that phrases the whole thing rather differently.  The end of it reads: "In Witness Whereof, this certificate is given at Seattle, Washington.  [new line]  December 15, 2006  [new line]  Date."  This avoids the grammatical problem as well, although I have to admit that now I have a sneaking suspicion "Date" was a placeholder that should have been removed when the certificate was produced.

By the way, I can't help but notice, now that I have more than one version to compare, the erratic pseudo-German capitalization.  Is it "Two Thousand" or "two thousand"?  Consistency, people—it's a hobgoblin in my mind!]

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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I'm guessing you're right about what the sentence used to read; my (BA) degree has almost exactly that phrasing. Although I went to a state school too—guess they haven't gotten around to removing the religious reference.

Posted by: Carson Chittom at Oct 30, 2009 5:32:59 AM

I liked the Lisbon Shrike photo. Looks good for "What if Dan Simmons wrote the Treebeard parts of Lord of the Rings", or the central figure to the forthcoming "Burning Shrike" festival in the American desert.

"How many?" he asked. "Ten, sir!" said the Tensor, tenser".

Posted by: dmarks at Dec 9, 2009 6:59:04 AM

Confirmation of your hypothesis.
On my University of Washington M.A. diploma, much older than yours, it says:
"Given at Seattle, in the State of Washington, this eighteenth Day of August
in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and Sixty-Seven,
and of the University the One Hundred and seventh."

Posted by: John M Lawler at Feb 28, 2010 9:30:14 AM

I have to say that I was extremely disappointed that your dissertation subject was not "Darmok" considering the high number of posts on the topic :). Just watched this episode and found your post quite amusing. "No the literal walls literally fell". Priceless. I laughed out loud, or as the kids would say, LOL.

Posted by: T Jackson at Aug 26, 2010 9:22:29 PM