A reference to academic achievement on a graduation party cake caused an awkward moment when it ended up being censored.
A mother wanted to recognize the hard work her son had completed on his graduation party cake. But the grocery store she ordered it from ended up with egg on its face when it actually blocked out a word it saw as vulgar.
You see, her son graduated from high school summa cum laude. And when she went to order a cake, that Latin phrase became a serious issue. More on that in a moment.
First, let’s look at three Latin phrases used to reflect academic achievement:
- cum laude
- magna cum laude
- summa cum laude
Here’s what all of that Latin actually means!
The phrase cum laude means “with honor” in Latin. Some authorities say that to graduate cum laude requires a GPA of 3.5 to 3.7. Other sources say it means you’re graduating in the top 25% or 30% of your graduating class. In my case, I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcasting, cum laude. In my case, that was because I had a GPA of 3.5+.
magna cum laude
This phrase is a step up and means “with great honor.” To qualify for this one, you either need a GPA of 3.8 to 3.9 or be in the top 10% or 15% of your graduating class, depending on the institution.
summa cum laude
Here are where you find the really smart ones out there. It means “with highest honor,” which you can understand if you think of summa being connected to summit, which means the peak. Summa cum laude graduates are typically either in the top 1% to 5% of their class or have a GPA of 4.0.
It’s no easy feat.
And certainly it’s one deserving of praise.
That brings us to the graduation cake problem.
So a Charleston woman goes online to order a cake for a graduation party from the regional grocery store chain Publix, which is generally regarded as a higher-end grocery store.
In the online order form, she typed in this message she wanted on the cake:
Congratulations Jacob! Summa cum laude Class of 2018
But immediately, the order form substituted that three-letter word with dashes and a red message appeared:
Profane/special characters not allowed.
So she entered, in part, this message in the special instructions window:
The system is mistaking ‘cum’ for something inappropriate vs. Latin.
She even included a link that explained the definition of the phrase.
Apparently, either no one at Publix actually reads those “special instructions” or they didn’t bother to try verify that “summa cum laude” was actually a thing. So what she received wasn’t a cake with the complete phrase but rather a cake with that little three-letter word substituted with three hyphens: “– – –”
The gaffe even made Stephen Colbert’s show, though the langauge might be a bit over the top for some. The pertinent part begins at about 1:14:
The woman’s Facebook post has been switched to private so I can’t share it here, but you can see it in the video above.
After being called onto the carpet about the mistake — one that should never have happened — Publix did apologize and gave the mom a gift certificate worth double the price of the cake.
Hopefully, if any other family orders a fancy graduation party cake for a student who’s graduating with honors, no one will have to deal with any embarrassing explanations when it comes to the message in the icing!