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Thursday, 3 November 2016

ban on Latin abbreviations: a rant

The British Government is to ban Latin abbreviations on all its electric documents, websites etc.

Oh, but I shouldn't use etc, obviously, because that's a Latin abbreviation. I need to use the English word instead. Which would be...

....would et cetera do? It's not an abbreviation. The trouble is that it is Latin, and the point of the ban seems to be to make things clear for non-English speakers and automated readers of text. 

I could use and so on, I suppose. It's certainly easy to read...though not at all easy to look up in a dictionary.

Still, that doesn't mean that most of our Latin abbreviations can't be replaced easily enough. Eg can be changed to for example, ie can be changed

...that is? Oh dear, that's necessarily quite the same, is it. And, again, if you don't understand it then dictionaries won't help you much. 

Still, there must be some English replacement word or phrase: in other words? No, that isn't always going to be right, either.

Tricky, isn't it?

The trouble is I have a horrible feeling that the reason we have these very common Latin abbreviations is that we don't really have an easy English phrase for what they say. 

And, anyway, is et cetera any less English than, say, the phrases bona fide or post script (and what, for that matter, is the English for bona fide and post script (and what is the English post script's abbreviation)?  

I'm not saying that Latin abbreviations shouldn't be banned.

I'm just not convinced that most of them in practice are actually Latin.

Word To Use Today: one that's English and Latin: eg impromptu, animus, bonus, duo, or odium.

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