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June 2, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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teh latin grammerz


While researching for some essays over the last few years, I often came across French statements being used in some of the older books. This annoyed me; I did not like that it was assumed that the reader should know French. Pissing French everywhere pêle-mêle, it just seemed arrogant of the authors—how was I, a lowly student of German, supposed to understand it all? Putain de merde!

The thing is, early to mid last century, if you were educated, you probably could speak French. It was compulsory to learn in many schools. But times changed, and so did the approach to academic writings. It is advised that you use more recent research, but this isn’t always possible. But even if you can understand the French ramblings in your research of Early German Colonial Expressionist Poetry, there is yet another language you are expected to know at university.

Latin. Latin. This is the true language of academia, back from the days when everyone at university dressed like they were in a Harry Potter movie, with the big black gowns, massive hoods that were fuzzy on the inside if you had to sit further away from the fire because you weren’t too smart, and funny square hats that made it difficult to walk through doors.

Oh wait. We still do that. It’s called graduation.

Latin was the true language of education, thanks to the legacy left by the Roman Empire. If you spoke Latin in the Middle Ages it meant you were educated; if you speak it now it probably means you’re a nerd. Latin also used to be a more complete language than many other languages, i.e., it had more words, such as religious expressions—which probably accounts for the large percentage of Latin-based words in the Germanic languages, as well as the Latin-based Romance languages.

Some Latin terms have made it to modern English through academia, just like wearing dressing gowns and wearing funny hats has. You’ve probably used some today. You might have specified a morning or evening time with ante meridiem or post meridiem, added something to your Cirriculum Vitae, or played a game of jeep versus velociraptor.
Hopefully you’ll recognise Latin abbreviations that are now common to English, e.g., i.e., R.I.P., et al., etc., etc. But do you know what they mean, and how to use them? We’ll start with some easy ones.

etc. Short for et cetera, which is Latin for ‘and the others’ or ‘and the rest’. You use it when there is an obvious continuation in a series and can’t be arsed listing them all. For example, right now I’m drinking a mixture of whiskey, red wine, absinthe, milk, etc., and it tastes better than Tui.

e.g. and i.e. Exempli gratia (‘for example’) and id est (‘that is’, ‘for instance’). Make sure you don’t get these two mixed up. e.g. is used for listing examples, and i.e. is used for a clarification, i.e., something specific.

One thing I found Latin abbreviations useful for was referencing in my essays. Be­cause I’m lazy, I quite often referenced the same book multiple times. Instead of repeating the book’s details over and over in your footnotes, you can instead write ibid. after the first occur­rence. ibid. is short for ibidem, which means ‘in the same place’. When refer­encing multiple books by the same author, instead of re­peating the author’s name you can use ead. (eadem) for female authors or id. (idem) for male authors.

et al. is one of my favourite Latin abbre­viations that I’ll probably never use again. It’s similar to etc., only used for people and not things. It is short for et alii and means ‘and the others’, although I always think of it as ‘and friends’. It’s usually used when referencing a book with multiple authors—you’ll come across books that are collections of essays written on a particular topic. For example, Salient, by Rory Harnden et al.

Questions about grammerz? Or email me here.

Repetita juvant
Repeating things is good.
Repeating things is good.

Requiescat in pace (R.I.P.)
1000 velociraptors.

P.S. There’s also post scriptum, which comes after the main body of text and signature.

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About the Author ()

Mikey learned everything he knows about English Grammar in an MSN chat room when he was 13. Believing that people don't say "LOL" enough in everyday conversation, he has made it his mission to teach the world about grammerz one person at a time.

Comments (6)

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  1. Omar-Grammar says:

    Awesome, awesome column. Keep it up :D

    Teh Grammerz? Nom.

  2. Mikey says:

    Cheers. Personally I wasn’t too happy with this one, but good to know somebody else thinks otherwise. I’m gonna work on some things over the break, e.g. teh drunken grammerz.

  3. Graphical User Ynterface Armstrong says:

    Can I help you with that one?

  4. CityCat says:

    Very informative, I thoroughly enjoyed this article, keep up the good work.

  5. Mikey says:

    Thanks mum.

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