The obscure word of the week is adsum

This week’s obscure English word is adsum. It is directly from Latin and means to indicate one’s presence, for instance during a roll call. Usually, of course, the answer is simply ‘here’. One can imagine it being used at assembly in any large English boarding school:

Headmaster: Timpton Minor!

Timpton: Adsum, sir.

Headmaster: Ah yes. I have some news for you, Timpton. Your mother died yesterday. [Turns page on roll] Toxteth the Lesser?

Toxteth: Adsum, sir.

Your challenge: write a sentence or two in the comments using this word.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2020

6 thoughts on “The obscure word of the week is adsum

    1. I couldn’t resist it – English boarding schools have a very strange sub-culture, and the New Zealand school system based itself on them. I remember, as a kid, lining up at ‘assembly’ where the headmaster would spout forth various bits of news, entirely devoid of any compassion. There was the time a kid I knew hooked school, fell off his pushbike and was badly hurt. The headmaster lined everybody up at assembly and announced that the kid had deserved it, and it was a warning to anybody who dared hook school. Then we all had to march, military-style, into the classrooms to the strains of ‘Colonel Bogey’. I wish I was joking. My Mum, who had a penfriend in Minneapolis with kids the same age as me, kept telling me American schools were far better.


  1. So does a kid get “minor” added to his name if he has an older brother at the school? Or is it because his father used to be a student there? And was something similar done in girls’ schools? English school culture is a thing, isn’t it?

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    1. Yes, it’s if more than one sibling is at the school. The older one is ‘Major’. If there are three, the third one is ‘Tertius’. English school culture is definitely bizarre. It used to be the same in New Zealand, too, where the schools (including the state day schools) modelled themselves specifically on the English boarding school system. Did Canada follow suit?

      As an aside, I edited a couple of books, some years ago, on ‘great escapes’ of World War 2. It always seemed to me that the POW system was pretty much the same as a public school, and the British (particularly) fell back on well-honed skills that had previously enabled them to hide their ‘wheezes’ from the ‘beak’. The Germans had absolutely no comprehension of what was going on.

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      1. Canada’s public (meaning government funded) schools are similar to those in the US. There is a Catholic school system also, which is similar, except for the religious component (obviously). A few private schools are or were modelled after English public schools, but I don’t know if they have all those weird traditions.

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