Government Latin Ban #Anglish #PlainEnglish

August 1, 2016

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The British government has banned Latin abbreviations on its websites. The Government Digital Service (GDS) has highlighted the need to more fully follow ‘plain English’ principles.

We promote the use of plain English on GOV.UK. We advocate simple, clear language. Terms like e.g., i.e. and etc, while common, make reading difficult for some.

Persis Howe, GDS content manager

Not everyone is happy, though. Roger Wemyss Brooks, of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, said the following.

Latin is part of our cultural heritage and it’s part of the basis of English. It unites us with other cultures throughout Europe and the world who have a connection with the Romance languages.

For my part, I think this is a good move. Particularly since most English speakers don’t seem to be able to use “e.g.”, “i.e.”, and so on correctly. As the Society for Plain English concludes:

We always suggest that writers remove Latin terms from all their text, particularly web text. Using such terms can suggest laziness and insincerity, and there’s never a justifiable reason to use them rather than clearer alternatives.

I have a general rule: if you do not know what “e.g.” and “i.e.” stand for (the answers are “exempli gratia” and “id est”), and you cannot be sure that all of your readership knows either, then don’t use them.

Goodbye e.g., i.e., etc., viz., hello example, that is, and so on, namely/to wit.

Also, read my article Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc Et Alia.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc Et Alia

July 11, 2014

potd-boris-scotlan_3034990k

I love the English language in all its rich diversity. And so I do confess I like those little Latin phrases. You know: quid pro quo, exempli gratia, post hoc ergo propter hoc, and so on. I know what these phrases mean, and it makes me feel smart to know that I’m part of this little secret clique, like a nerdier version of the freemasons or something; I know the secret password, the special handshake. It also makes me feel smug when the uninitiated try to use our secret code and fail (that is, when they use the phrases wrongly).

But this is an unhealthy feeling; I laud it over others, when this feeling takes me, because I guess it gives me some validation to be part of the intellectual elite — or something. But I’m a teacher, and it’s in my blood to teach, to help people understand. So when reasonably well-educated people cannot even wield these Latin tools, we know there’s a problem. When I see intelligent people say or write “i.e.” when they clearly mean “e.g.” — something I see and hear a lot, I should say — then we know there’s something seriously wrong. To make matters worse, a lot of these Latin phrases only ever pop up in some obscure abbreviation that nobody seems to know the full form for. So let’s just skip these smug markers of elite cliquedom, and use plainer English forms instead!

Therefore, what follows is a list of a few Latin expressions, the abbreviation to go with them if applicable, their literal meaning in Latin, and what I think you should say instead of the Latinism.

Latin: exemplia gratia (e.g.)
Literally: for the sake of example
Say: for example (f.e.)

Latin: id est (i.e.)
Lit.: that is
Say: that is (t.i.)

Latin: et alia/alii/aliae (et al.)
Lit.: and others
Say: and others (a.o.)

Latin: inter alia
Lit.: among others
Say: among others

Latin: quid pro quo
Lit.: who for who
Say: something for something (s.f.s.)

Latin: ibidem (ibid.)
Lit.: in the same place
Say: same place/page/book/work (s.p.)

Latin: videlicet (viz.)
Lit.: that is to say, to wit, namely
Say: that is to say, to wit, namely

Latin: et cetera (etc.)
Lit.: and the others
Say: and so on (a.s.o.), and so forth (a.s.f.), so on and so forth (s.o.a.s.f.)

Latin: ad hoc
Lit.: for this [specific purpose]
Say: makeshift

Latin (well, Latin by way of French): abbreviation (abbrev.)
Lit.: made short
Say: short-form

Latin: anno domini (a.d.)
Lit.: (in) the year of our lord
Say: after Jesus’/our Lord’s birth (a.J.b./a.o.L.b) [the latter for the more religiously inclined among us]

Latin: post hoc, ergo propter hoc
Literally: after this, therefore because of this
Say: after this, therefore because of this (a.t.t.b.o.t.)

Latin: anno domini
Literally: in the year of (our) lord
Say: in the year of our Lord (i.t.y.o.o.l/ityooL), Lord’s reckoning

Please add your own suggestions. Like all of my posts involving word-lists, I will from time-to-time update this list.

Note: Clearly some of the forms I use (for example, “a.s.o.”) are not standard English; I have made them up or they are in use amongst proponents of a plainer, more Saxon English. And some of these alternatives are already standard, such as “that is” (although my short-form “t.i.” is something I’ve just made up).

 

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© 2014 Bryan A. J. Parry


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