He will also be known as pope emeritus, emeritus pope or Roman pontifex emeritus.


Why does the journalist prospect the possibility of calling Benedict XVI "pope emeritus"? Since "emeritus" is a modifier of the name "pope", shouldn't it be "emeritus pope" in any case, without any possible alternative?

  • 3
    Emeritus is ordinarily postposited in English; perhaps because almost all uses are professor emeritus, which is sound Latin. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 26 '13 at 21:12
  • 3
    In fact, to me, it's "emeritus pope" that sounds wrong. – Martha Feb 26 '13 at 21:53
  • @StoneyB Actually, quite a few uses are professor emerita. :) – tchrist Feb 27 '13 at 1:03
  • @tchrist Quite true; though if you back 50 years you will have to strike the article. But if you go forward 50 years I'd be willing to bet that most uses will be emerita – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 27 '13 at 1:08

The difference is between whether the modifier is being quoted from Latin (in which case the adjective follows Latin word ordering), or whether the word is being used as Standard English, in which case the adjective follows normal English rules:

He would be known as an emeritus pope.

He would be known as "pope emeritus".

In this case, CNN are using the word "emeritus" as quoted from Latin, rather than as the valid English word, and hence the word "emeritus" goes after the word "pope".

There are some other weird holdovers from Latin that you might come across:

The President elect is due to be inaugurated in January.

Please give a round of applause for our new Professor Emeritus, Professor Stevenson!

As an English learner, generally you should be aware of this rule, but avoid using it yourself except in situations where you have heard it used before. It is rarely used, and you can always substitute normal English word ordering without loss of meaning.

  • 2
    Although derived from Latin, elect is English; and I fancy the postposited adjective there is derived from the use of the once Francophone English government - witness heir apparent, heir presumptive, queen regnant, queen consort - maintained up into Early Modern English: body corporate, notary public, sergeant major, attorney, governor, surgeon, captain, major, lieutenant general, – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 27 '13 at 0:31
  • 2
    @Matt It seems unlikely to me that each use is a re-borrowing, so I would say instead: in either case it's an English word, but it hasn't become fully regularized. Many loanwords begin life this way, and many never become fully regularized. – snailplane Feb 27 '13 at 11:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy