Thoughts on the Name

Since it is not so long ago that I first heard the name “Populus,” I can still recall with some vividness the initial impression made upon me by that excellent name.  One is, of course, immediately struck by the echo of, or reference to, the highly-acclaimed computer program Senatus Populusque Romanus (that series of simulations of Roman Law by the eminent student of jurisprudence Bodin Faunce Pardew), while at the same time “Populus” also has a casually disarming air of being, perhaps corrupted from the English word “populous.”  Later, as one first tries to use Populus, the thought is temporarily unavoidable that it was so named in memory of the practice of punishing errant students with a poplar switch (Populus spp.), or perhaps in relation to the Latin verb “populare,” to devastate or ruin.  Eventually, however, with practice, and along the way, some good-natured ribbing from fellow students’ indecent puns about being “caught in populo” – (in Populo flagrante!) – one at last develops the feeling that Populus is equally capable of connoting a “popular” exercise even more than a devastating one.

Richard D. Benson
Circa 1988