Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sine Qua Non

I found this over at Joanne Jacobs' edublog:

Bournemouth Council, which has the Latin motto Pulchritudo et Salubritas, meaning beauty and health, has listed 19 terms it no longer considers acceptable for use.

This includes bona fide, eg (exempli gratia), prima facie, ad lib or ad libitum, etc or et cetera, ie or id est, inter alia, NB or nota bene, per, per se, pro rata, quid pro quo, vis-a-vis, vice versa and even via.

Its list of more verbose alternatives, includes “for this special
purpose”, in place of ad hoc and “existing condition” or “state of things”, instead of status quo.

The amusing headline from the original article, from Great Britain, is:

Councils ban 'elitist' and 'discriminatory' Latin

They are phrases that are repeated ad nauseam and are taken as bona fide English, but councils have now overturned the status quo by banning staff from using Latin terms, which they claim are elitist and discriminatory

I've never head this particular definition of discriminatory before. Elitist, sure. Latin is elitist. Fine. But discriminatory? My understanding of that word is that it has to do with erecting barriers for one group of people--keeping some people out of or away from something. Latin is not such a barrier; there's a big ole door right there in the wall of elitism. All you have to do to walk through it is, you know, learn it. And I don't mean learn the language. I never learned the language. But I can handle the odd phrase, because I read. And if you have trouble with Latin phrases, there's only about a dozen websites out there that provide definitions for common ones.

How is it that every generation in Europe and America since the fall of Rome has managed to live with some amount of Latin woven into their home language, but we--we special folks of the early 21st century--are just too precious and vulnerable to be able to handle is?

Someone might confuse e.g. for egg? Well, then, someone needs to learn.

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