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An academic* question

In your current experience, is "academical" a real word, and if so, to what, exactly, does it refer?

I must have seen it in the past and thought it an error, until today, when it appeared in such a very correct context, that I had no choice but to take it at face value. It appears in the title of THE book on Academical Dress of British and Irish Universities, whose existence I was alerted to by makyo.

Clearly, it is a correct word. Is it just a British Isles term? Would it today be considered old-fashioned?

I started off my research in a very superficial way: I put the term into Google. 714,000 hits, but Google's source of word definitions does not acknowledge the word as an established on. Google's a US company. Does it use a US dictionary for searches from its UK site too, or is the word just rather rare?

The OED was, unsurprisingly, more forthcoming. The earliest known instance of academical was in the same year as the earliest known instance of the word academic (1587). It does get used to refer to many of the same things that academic is used for - but the two adjectives are not entirely congruent. academical is more likely to refer to an academician - as opposed to an academy - and, most relevantly, academical specifically refers to academic regalia. (From 1823 - "Young man, how dare you be without your academicals!") The OED pays heed to its natal institution, including amongst the established uses of the term the position of "academical clerks", effectively work-study positions available at some of the Oxford colleges.

Even if it still sounds unexpected to my ear, I am now at peace with single term, academicals, for academic regalia. Good enough. But I am still unsure if this is a word in modern usage beyond the numerous university-based societies which have ensconced it in their names.


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 24th, 2006 12:03 pm (UTC)
I've never heard it in the US, unless 'regalia' is short for 'academical regalia'. But even then, I think the US version is 'academic regalia'.
Jul. 24th, 2006 12:12 pm (UTC)
I'd only ever heard it in the context of THE book you mention and closely-related phenomena. I'd never heard anybody say "academicals" for regalia, though, even around Oxford where "academical dress" was reasonably common, at least in print.
Jul. 24th, 2006 12:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you for a more contemporary Oxford experience than the OED offers.
Jul. 24th, 2006 12:19 pm (UTC)
I'd say no. What would be the point of 'Academical', surely we have the word 'Academic', for that?
Jul. 24th, 2006 12:28 pm (UTC)
My gut feeling on the subject exactly - but then there're pairs like comic and comical. "Comic" is a noun, so "comical" makes sense, but it is also used adjectivally. Plus, to get to the adverb, academic goes through academical to become academically. Language isn't always obvious, but this word just feels wrong to me for modern speech.
Jul. 24th, 2006 12:21 pm (UTC)
Only in the context of the rather lowly Scottish football team Hamilton Academicals
Jul. 24th, 2006 12:22 pm (UTC)
And sports team names can be pretty random.
Jul. 24th, 2006 01:09 pm (UTC)
I think that in Britain, they're anything but random. The names usually point to something in the team's history. Hamilton Academicals were originally the team of the Hamilton Academy. Arsenal was the team of Woolwich Arsenal (they moved from South London), Pretty much all of the "rovers" and "wanderers" started out as teams without their own pitches ...
Jul. 24th, 2006 12:27 pm (UTC)
I've certainly come across the term "academicals" meaning university dress (try 'gowns academicals' in Google), though it might be just from reading Victorian novels. However, the commonest use these days seems to bs as part of the name of a sports team associated with a university (try 'academicals uk' in Google).
Jul. 24th, 2006 12:37 pm (UTC)
Answering without reading the post, I'd assume it was short for academic dress (& would be plural). Not that I've ever used it, but in Gaudy Night I'm pretty sure Harriet reflects on seeing someone in 'full academicals'. But I could be wrong!
Jul. 24th, 2006 12:40 pm (UTC)
And reading the post I see that is a correct meaning. It is fairly old-fashioned, I think - I was around Oxford in the late 80s and don't remember coming across it.
Jul. 24th, 2006 12:38 pm (UTC)
Can I use "academicish"?

example: "Even her livejournal posts were academicish."

Jul. 24th, 2006 05:28 pm (UTC)
Your academicalositousness pleases me.
Jul. 24th, 2006 10:24 pm (UTC)
Damn you. You up-academicked me again.
Jul. 26th, 2006 01:43 pm (UTC)
Is either Monday Aug 7th morning/lunch/and/or/early afternoon, or else the evening of Friday August 25th good for you? The evening of Sunday Aug 6th could also be an option.
Jul. 26th, 2006 04:30 pm (UTC)
You're going to be in New York, right? For a second there I forgot and thought you commented to the wrong person!

I can't really leave here until Aug 9th (except for this weekend's conference), so the 25th would be better. But it's hard to say now ...
Jul. 26th, 2006 04:34 pm (UTC)
Yep, New York. The 25th is good for me. My flight arrives at Newark at 11 am, and I'm booked in to a JFK airport hotel that night. Those are my only limitations that day, so not very limited really, except that I'll have luggage with me if I don't make it to the hotel first.
Jul. 24th, 2006 12:56 pm (UTC)
'Academical' is only a real word in the context of Scottish football, as far as I'm concrned, and the team Hamilton Academicals.
Jul. 24th, 2006 09:29 pm (UTC)
My thoughts precisely. :)
Jul. 24th, 2006 01:22 pm (UTC)
Jul. 24th, 2006 01:44 pm (UTC)
I've come across the word, meaning academic regalia before, but I'm uncertain as to the source--I'd suspect Gaudy Night. It was certainly a print source and not local usage anywhere I've gone to school.
Jul. 24th, 2006 01:53 pm (UTC)
It's a real word (as the OED confirms), but is borderline archaic these days - the far more usual form is `academic'. Apart from the obscure Scottish football team Hamilton Academicals, I've only heard it used in connection with academic ceremonial matters, and the people writing about that sort of thing tend to like using quirky or otherwise idiosyncratic spellings (I know one in particular who uses the recently-archaic spelling `shew' when he reckons he can get away with it).
Jul. 24th, 2006 03:56 pm (UTC)
Never mind all that - is "gastropub" actually a word?

Good heavens.
Jul. 25th, 2006 07:10 am (UTC)
ah - the ever-evolving English language. I blame Anthony Worral Thompson.
Jul. 24th, 2006 09:19 pm (UTC)
I've never heard of this silly pseudo-word before, and I refuse to believe in it now. Forget it.
Jul. 26th, 2006 01:32 am (UTC)
The only time I've heard that word used was in reference to the "academical village" (i.e., academic mall) at UVa.

- Heocwaeth
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )