Make good grades and you’ll graduate with a degree

The Spanish noun grado has various meanings, including those that can be translated into English with the related words grade and the French-derived degree. All go back to Latin gradus, a noun that meant ‘step, pace, gait, walk,’ from the verb gradī ‘to step, walk, go, advance.’ Other words we’ve borrowed from that source are the ingrediente/ingredient that ‘goes into’ a recipe; the retrógrado/retrograde that applies to something ‘moving backward’; the graduar/graduate which one does upon taking all the steps required to complete a course of study, typically in a process described as gradual.

One other related word is the temperature scale named centígrado/centigrade for the separation of a hundred grados/degrees between the freezing and boiling points of water. Also known as the Celsius scale, it stands in contrast to the Fahrenheit scale still predominantly used in the retrograde United States. And with respect to that, let me point out a curiosity that I discovered a couple of years ago, namely that in two instances a temperature in one system can be converted to its counterpart in the other (rounded to the nearest whole degree) merely by switching the digits:

16°C = 61°F and 28°C = 82°F.

Armed with that precious knowledge, you can now graduate to being the life of the party.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Playamart - Zeebra Designs
    Nov 22, 2016 @ 08:37:55

    Ha! Of course you knew that I’d smile at this one! I thought, “Now how does a right-brainer remember which number combos when it’s time to pass on that info?” so I thought of the contrast between a 16 year old and a 61 year old…. At sixteen you think you know everything and at 61 you realize you knew nothing..) and ditto for an 82 year old (age my father was when he died) with – of course the 28 year old…

    Now where’s that party so I can be a one-hit-wonder star!


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Nov 22, 2016 @ 09:26:09

      If you really want to wow them at a party, point out that reversed-digit pairs are always a multiple of 9 apart. In the case of the two temperature pairs, 61 is 45 more than 16, and 45 = 5 x 9; 82 is 54 more than 28, and 54 = 6 x 9. In fact the multiple of 9 by which the numbers in a reversed pair differ is none other than the difference between the digits in each member of the pair. In 16 and 61, the digits are 5 apart from each other, therefore 16 and 61 are 5 nines apart. The partygoers will bow down and worship you.


  2. Jim Ruebush
    Nov 22, 2016 @ 08:52:29

    I noticed grad on some of my previous scientific calculators. I never knew how to use them.

    As to temps, do you know the point at which the F and C scales read the same?


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Nov 22, 2016 @ 09:33:50

      I was aware of the grad capability of my calculators but never had occasion to invoke it. I used to tell my students that it was a European system of measuring angles and then never mention it again.

      On a nature program just the other day the narrator mentioned temperatures going down to –40°F. I turned to my wife and pointed out that the narrator (or actually whoever wrote the text the narrator was reading) needn’t have said Fahrenheit because –40 is the one place where the two scales coincide.


  3. shoreacres
    Nov 25, 2016 @ 08:44:25

    And isn’t it interesting that one of the most important traditions of the graduation ceremony — a walk across the stage to receive the diploma — involve some of the most important steps of a student’s life to that point: steps recalling all the steps in the learning process that brought them to that day.


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Nov 25, 2016 @ 09:31:17

      I did some looking to see if I could find out how the graduation procession originated but I didn’t turn up anything specific. I did learn that the students who are about to get their diplomas are known as graduands.


      • Maria F.
        Dec 04, 2016 @ 11:27:42

        From what I gather what happened with “graduation”, is that “tion” is a suffix used to enhance “the action of (a verb)” in this case graduation and the Latin word which in this case would be “gradual” (and Latin “gradus”). The same with the Spanish suffix “ción” and the word “graduación” (graduation). The suffix “ción” has the same role as the suffix “tion”. So “graduation” is the action which one does upon taking all the steps required to complete a course of study, and it’s a procession, as you say, but the word is probably stemming from Medieval Latin “graduatus”, past participle of graduari “to take a degree”.


        • Steve Schwartzman
          Dec 04, 2016 @ 15:19:21

          Latin -tion- was indeed used to form a noun designating the action or result of a verb. Medieval scholasticism introduced a connection to education by coining the verb graduārī, based on a classical Latin root that hadn’t specifically had an educational connotation.


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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