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If, like me, you've read CVs and never fully understood what the Latin phrases alongside American degree results really mean, here's this month's golden nugget.

Each US university sets its own standards, and these standards often vary greatly among universities. Thus, comparing Latin honours across universities is often meaningless; the same level of Latin honours attained at different universities may actually indicate very different levels of academic achievement.

Many institutes confer three levels of Latin honours, although some eschew the third, namely:

  • cum laude, meaning "with honor"
  • magna cum laude, meaning "with great honor"
  • summa cum laude, meaning "with highest honor" .

So, clear as mud then. If only we knew what this word "honor" meant. Oh, don't worry, we've got it – we forget that Americans can't spell.

Next month: hold onto your hats and we'll explain Phi Delta Kappa!

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