Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Recently I used the term medicine students to mean students of medicine. This was corrected to medical students. I googled and found that the term I chose is not really used.

However I still hear computer science students or Japanese language students. Why not medicine students then?

share|improve this question
5  
"Computer science" and "Japanese language" don't have good adjectival forms. But we don't talk about "physical students", "chemical students" or "historical students", either. –  Peter Shor Mar 18 '12 at 22:19
    
Which term is not really used? As far as I know, 'medical students' is what people use, and no one uses 'medicine students'. –  Mitch Mar 19 '12 at 1:28

1 Answer 1

up vote 8 down vote accepted

It used to be the case that there were 'physical students', 'mathematical students', 'philosophical students', and 'historical students'. Somewhere in the middle of the 20th century, these switched to 'physics students', 'mathematics students', 'philosophy students', and 'history students'. Consider the following Google Ngram.

mathematical and philosophical

I suspect that 'medical students' did not switch because it was so common it had become a set phrase by the time of the switchover. And it was always 'law students' and not 'legal students'.

Of course, this answers one question at the price of bringing up another: why the mid-20th century switch?

share|improve this answer
    
+1 it's certainly interesting to see that transition! I think you're right about medical students already being entrenched. It's always been so prevalent even the most common of your charted usages virtually flatlines against it. –  FumbleFingers Mar 18 '12 at 23:03

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.