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Education Potius! Latin lapse etched into Texas tower shooting memorial

Potius! Latin lapse etched into Texas tower shooting memorial

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A new memorial for the victims of the 1966 University of Texas tower shooting is etched with a word that Latin professors say is an embarrassing mistake that’s literally set in stone.

The granite memorial unveiled this week honors victims on the 50th anniversary of sniper Charles Whitman climbing atop the 27-story clock tower and opening fire. Seventeen deaths were ultimately attributed to Whitman, and their names are etched on the stone monument below the Latin word “INTERFECTUM,” which is equivalent in English to “killed.”

The problem, UT classics professors say, is that is the impersonal, singular version of the word.

“This is a very basic point that any student of first-semester Latin would get,” said Lesley Dean-Jones, the classics department chairwoman.

The mistake was first reported by the Austin American-Statesman.

Dean-Jones said her department — which isn’t far from the memorial — wasn’t consulted beforehand. Other classics professors at the 50,000-student campus on Thursday expressed bewilderment that it wasn’t fact-checked more closely and said the simplest fix would be “interfecti,” which makes it personal and plural.

Correcting the memorial is no problem, said Erica Saenz, a UT associate vice president of diversity and community engagement. She said the wording was chosen by a memorial committee outside the university and that administrators wanted to honor their wishes.

“We wanted to support the selection,” Saenz said. “We should have done a deeper dive.”

Saenz did not say how or when the memorial may be fixed.

Potius is the Latin word for embarrassing, according to online dictionaries.

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