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I have heard the adjective erudite in relation to humans, but I was inditing an essay and pondering whether I could implement it to describe a school. An erudite school. Is that permissible?

  • It might be easier to make a comment about the "permissibility" of such usage if we had more than a fragment to consider. – J.R. May 4 '14 at 23:22
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    What is inditing an essay supposed to mean? – tchrist May 9 '14 at 2:56
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Can “erudite” be used to describe a school?

Of course it can. Admittedly, there is the matter of whether or not a school is capable of thought (obviously, buildings can't think, but the people who run a school can). A university can be erudite in the same way a church can be compassionate – the word isn't necessarily confined to the buildings.

That said, I'll take the liberty to dispense a little bit of writing advice: don't scour the thesaurus for a fancy word when a simpler one will do.

I was inditing an essay and pondering whether I could implement it to describe a school.

That should probably be:

I was writing an essay and pondered whether I could use it to describe a school.

Likewise, from your profile:

I am a jocund and tranquil adolescent who possesses a penchant for inditing.

should probably be:

I am a quiet but cheerful adolescent who enjoys writing.

unless you're trying to be deliberately flowery for humorous effect.

It's commendable to have a rich vocabulary, but it's best to save words like erudite, jocund, and inditing for places where words like smart, friendly, and writing won't work, where there is a pressing need for a word with more precision. Merely sprinkling these words into your writing randomly won't impress the reader.

There's a reason we are not called English Language & Implementation. Policies are implemented, not words.

So, erudite may be a good word for a school, but it depends on the school, and what you are trying to say about it. Are you sure that school isn't intellectual?

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Yes, absolutely. While a school, meaning either the building or the institution, obviously can't be erudite, the listener will make the required mental leap and realize you're talking about the people associated with the school. It would be a case of metonymy, and a case of personification, attaching human qualities to an inanimate object. It's a common and powerful rhetorical tool (which we also use in everyday speech quite unconsciously).

Examples for such metonymy wold be conservative city (the collection of buildings can't be conservative; we mean that the majority of its citizens are conservative), cowardly country, ignorant nation - just look these up in a search engine to see people are really using these.

@J.R. on the comments provides examples about the metonymic use of erudite:

  • If you aim at appealing only to other craftsmen, it becomes an erudite business.
  • Tarsus ranked with Alexandria and Athens as an erudite university city.
  • That must be the ultimate accolade, not the doffed tassled cap of an erudite university nor a nod from a snobbish neighbor.
  • It will remind us that we are an offshoot of this erudite college.

As with every other rhetorical tool, you must be careful not to overuse it, and it may not be appropriate in some contexts (you may sound old-fashioned or pompous), but if you're using the word erudite anyway, you should have no problem with erudite school.

  • Well said. Personification has been used in writing for a long time. “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10) – J.R. May 5 '14 at 9:04
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Threading the gloom-girt trail blazed by the ponderous Worcester and the sonorous Cen- tury, this attenuated Jester in fool's cap and motley impudently sounded his titillating tocsin in the very ears of High Brows and Pundits and, with every impish grimace known to phrase-mongering mummery, contorted the grave visage of erudite Etymology into a look of holy horror. -The altogether new foolish dictionary ... . Wurdz, Gideon, b. 1875.

If you describe someone as erudite, you mean that they have or show great academic knowledge. You can also use erudite to describe something such as a book or a style of writing. [FORMAL]

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