Society & Culture

A Monumental Proposal

I was recently perplexed to see in the news that Harvard, the oldest institution of higher learning in the nation, had declared that, though master has no etymological relation to slavery (but rather to magister), the word would nevertheless be abandoned as a title for a resident supervisor of student housing, and be replaced by some weak substitute.  Yet simultaneously, the educational giant announced that though a house could not any more have a master, Harvard’s master’s degrees would still be called by the slavery-tainted word.

My puzzlement was not my shortcoming, or so I flatter myself.  The vertigo was caused by the cognitive failure of hypocritical Harvard to be consistent in its pandering to belligerent and deluded students who, to make a mystery more murky, were supposed to be learning something other than how to make a laughingstock of a great university.  If they had been learning anything at all, such as elementary French, they might have known how to refer to the lady of a house: La maîtresse de maison; or another usage familiar to civilized English speakers, “Le Maître d’hôtel,” or the Italian honorific Maestro.  If they had studied English, they might have learned something perhaps about the relation of Master, Mister, Mistress, and even Mr.,...

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