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Why the UT Tower Memorial Inscription Is (Technically) Incorrect, For Now

Miguel Gutierrez Jr.
The memorial commemorating the 17 victims of the UT Tower mass shooting.

This week, the University of Texas at Austin revealed its memorial for the victims of the Tower shooting – a single piece of granite that features the names of the 16 victims of the mass shooting along with the Latin inscription "Interfectum."

Well, as the Statesman's Ralph K. Haurwitz pointed out, that inscription isn't exactly the most appropriate verbiage for the memorial. But why? 

We asked Karl Galinsky, a Latin expert and longtime UT Austin professor of the classics – who, incidentally, first arrived on campus just weeks after the shooting in 1966 – three simple questions about the dustup.

How'd this happen?

Does this mistake translate into English?
UT Professor Karl Galinsky says Latin and English forms don't mirror each other. You can use the participle "killed" in English, but its Latin counterparts are more differentiated.

Why is "interfectum" the improper form?
Galinsky says the word is impersonal and suggests that objects, rather than people, died in the shooting.

As for the inscription, UT's Erica Saenz told the Statesman that the memorial could be sandblasted and re-inscribed "if necessary," though, it's unclear if that will ultimately be the case for the monument.

In an email, J.B. Bird, UT's director of media outreach, told KUT the university is "working to resolve this quickly so the focus returns where it belongs, to honoring the survivors, victims and their families."

This post has been updated. 


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