Published: 07th February 2018
Have you ever said Mea Culpa? Find out what it means
The word has existed for decades yet is seldom used, and little known to many an English-speaker. Albert Rayan explains significance and meaning of the Latin word
A few days ago, during a conversation with a priest friend, I heard him use the expression “mea culpa”. Another friend of mine who was part of the conversation asked me what “mea culpa” meant and whether it was a commonly used term.
“Mea culpa” is a Latin expression which literally means “through my fault”. It can be interpreted as “I am culpable” and “I am to blame”. When someone says “mea culpa”, the person accepts their fault or error. It is part of a prayer of confession, used at the beginning of the Mass celebrated in the Catholic Church. Here are examples of how the term is used in different contexts:
· Yes, the sentence is ambiguous. I must have been more careful in phrasing it. Mea culpa!
· If I have said something wrong, then mea culpa.
· We can’t expect any politician to say mea culpa for their wrongdoings.
In American English, the expression “my bad” is very common. When someone says “my bad”, the person admits their mistake. It is like saying “I admit the mistake” or “It is my fault and I am sorry for that”.
A: I didn’t ask you to bring this document.
B: My bad, Give me ten minutes. I’ll bring the other one.
How is “mea culpa” pronounced? The first syllable “me” of the word “mea” is pronounced as the word “may” and the second syllable “e” is pronounced as the “e” in the word “the”. The first syllable “cul” of the word “culpa” rhymes with “pull” and the second syllable “pa” rhymes with “the”. The stress is on the second first syllable of the second word.
A reader wants to know whether this sentence is grammatically correct: “England aren’t used to producing fast bowlers”.
Yes, the sentence is perfectly correct because “England” is treated as a plural subject in the sentence. If it is treated as a singular subject, we can say “England isn’t used to producing fast bowlers”. Similarly, “team” can be treated either as a singular or plural subject. If a collective noun acts as a unit, it takes a singular verb.
· The couple has been living in this house since 1999.
· Their family is known for charity work.
A collective noun is a name for a group of people or things. The examples of collective nouns are: team, class, family, staff, and flock. We use plural verbs when the members of the group (collective nouns) are acting as individuals. Here are examples:
· The couple are working in two different cities.
· The family are living in different parts of the world.
· The jurywere not able to reach a decision.
To avoid clumsiness, the sentences can be rewritten as:
· The husband and the wife are working in different cities.
· The members of the family are living in different parts of the world.
· The members of the jury were not able to reach a decision.
A reader from Cochin has sent in this query: “I came across the expression “chime in” in a sentence while reading a novel. What is the meaning of the term?
If a person “chimes in”, they say or write something after another person has spoken or written something. In online communication, it is just adding one’s comment or opinion. Look at these examples:
· While we were discussing the issue of a minister’s comment on the theory of evolution, a senior professor chimed in with her cynical remarks.
· Three different Indian science academies also chimed in, saying the removal of evolution from school curriculums would be a regrettable step back.