Thursday, 20 November 2008

Nunc ambrosia!


Local authorities in the UK have ordered employees to stop using Latin words and phrases on documents written for public use.

According to The Sunday Telegraph, the ban has annoyed classical scholars who say it is the "linguistic equivalent of ethnic cleansing".

Salisbury Council has asked staff not to use ad hoc, ergo and QED (quod erat demonstrandum), while Fife Council has banned ad hoc as well as ex officio.

Bournemouth Council has listed 19 expressions that it no longer allows. They include 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.

The council noted to staff: "Not everyone knows Latin. Many readers do not have English as their first language so using Latin can be particularly difficult."

- local news.

Nunc ambrosia in turbini est!*

Now, I can understand some of them but so many are common usage anyway: eg: eg, ie, nb, etc, & via.

And what of words derived from Latin?

A brief list includes:
advert, agenda, agitator, album, alias, alibi, animal, apex, aquarium, Aquarius, arbiter, arena, Aries, August, autumn, axis, Britain, calendar, Cancer, captor, cardinal, circus, creator, creditor, curator, curriculum, cursor, Cyprus, data, December, discus, doctor, educator, equinox, February, focus, formula, forum, France, fungus, Gemini, genius, Germany, Greece, habitat, igneous, ignoramus, inch, index, inertia, inferior, innuendo, interior, joke, July, June, junior, Jupiter, Leo, liberator, Libra, London, March, Mars, matrix, maximum, May, medium, memorandum, Mercury, merit, mile, minimum, miracle, momentum, monitor, moratorium, motor, nebula, nectar, Neptune, nimbus, November, nubile, nucleus, obese, occult, October, omen, onus, orbit, pantomime, parent, pastor, peninsula, penis, picture, pirate, Pisces, premium, prohibit, pronoun, quadrant, quarantine, quota, rabid, radius, recipe, referendum, refrigerate, reign, relegate, religion, republic, respect, rostrum, rota, rude, Sagittarius, saliva, salubrious, sandal, sartorial, satellite, scale, segment, senior, September, series, silence, sinister, Spain, species, spectator, spectrum, stadium, stet, stimulus, street, study, stupid, suburb, superior, table, tacit, tandem, tavern, terminus, torpedo, transport, triangle, trident, ulterior, uniform, vacuum, vagina, valour, vehicle, ventriloquist, Venus, versus, veto, via, victim, victor, villa, violator, Virgo, virile.

Should these go too?

*Now the rice pudding's really hit the fan.


  1. oh dear. I suppose they left out the bit about creating equivalent English words? Things do hang on for a reason, it's not just arrogance.

  2. Imagine all those being abolished -that would be interesting. What about all the french words and words derived from the french language? Will they abolish those too? If they did we wouldn't have any words left.

  3. You're ahead of me Henry. Tomorrow I will look at some of the other languages that have contributed to English.

  4. Alter crus canere tintinnabulum.

    (The other one plays Jingle Bells.)

  5. Goodness, I missed that, but I have read the Sunday Telegraph now. What a can of worms. I can see this escalating into a major outrage here in the UK, like when Brussels declared we must sell our goods in kilograms and not pounds, and that the British sausage must conform to European specifications.

    The intention seems to be good, but it doesn't appear to be well thought out, and the Telegraph article brings in other local council language issues like the politically incorrect. If all these are lumped together, the aim of using simple clear English where basic information needs to be conveyed will be impossible to achieve. And if we are talking about communication with local councils that surely is what this is about, not about being ‘elitist and discriminatory’?

    For example, one council declares 'man made' to be non-politically correct, so 'synthetic' (Greek in origin) must be used instead. Turns the thing on its head!

    I don't see why the classicists should get their knickers in a twist, if guidelines are devised for a simple clear form of English to be used by public bodies who need to convey information rather than write essays. But they probably should be national guidelines rather than local, and would need a lot more commonsense in their creation than is evidenced by those quoted in the Telegraph.

    Got me going there, didn't you!

  6. Like your Latin tag by the way!

  7. JCN: Thank you.

    Judith: If you take all the none English out of English, what is left? Surely leaving all the overseas words in will make it more welcoming to foreigners.

  8. Tag stolen from a Punch magazine, circa 1979.

    Can I still say 'circa'?

  9. I find that astonishing,surely it must be a joke.

    English is a Germanic language with influences from many languages.
    eg :Latin, French, Norse, Celtic et al
    I couldn't live without 'ergo'. :-) ♥

  10. One of the guidelines I find helpful when writing is to consider the reader. I love the rich vocabulary of my native language, especially those words which have a long and historical pedigree. So I'm happy to find Latin in The Times newspaper, but I wouldn't use it in a Tenants' Handbook for a Social Housing Corporation, because I'd want it to be understood by as many of their readers as possible.

    By the way, I was pleased to see both "penis" and "vagina" appearing in your post. It's always about finding the right balance ;)

  11. What is "English" (itself a Germanic word).
    A little Celtic remains (ruthlessly eliminated by the Latin speakers of the Roman invasion.) Then Norse, then Saxon, then Old French, then the mediaeval mixture of all of these. (and I may have missed a few).
    It is a delightfully expressive mongrel which has colonised the world to become the "lingua franca (!)"
    I feel so sorry for these sad little jobsworths and Pecksniffs who have nothing better to do all day. (Trouble is - I pay their wages from the taxes on my retired pension).

  12. I like the Americanized English. If we don't have a word for it, we'll just borrow one that someone already uses.
    I can understand using Latin in specific types of writing, But there are times in normal writing where it is preferred that English words are used


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