If you frequent the Chronicle of Higher Education or Inside Higher Ed, you may have noticed that the word “academia” appears to have fallen out of fashion in favor of “academe.” I’m not sure why this is. Google’s Ngram comparison of the two words indicates that academe has recently been used more frequently in books, but its trajectory has been much lower than that of academia in the same time period. Google Trends also registers essentially zero interest in academe. Yet it persists. For example, a few days ago it was present throughout this post about the sad state of the academic job market.
I recognize that the two words both refer to the academic community and are essentially interchangeable. I also recognize that I have a negative reaction to the word academe that is likely unwarranted. (In that way it is similar to the negative reaction when I hear people refer to articles, book chapters, or blog posts as “pieces.” At least I know that my high school art teacher is to blame for that.) Interestingly, the recent rise of “academia” in the public consciousness could explain the rise of “academe” among actual academics, like the cool kids changing trends when the general population starts catching on (“Becky, everybody is talking about academia these days. We say academe now.”).
Google’s Ngram viewer archive stops at 2008, which is likely too early to catalog the recent rise of academe among academics. I suspect, however, that I’m going to have to get used to it. That doesn’t mean I have to use it, though. Cool kids be damned!
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