BANNING LATIN.

My initial thought was that this Telegraph story must be a joke, but since it quoted a bunch of real people and the date wasn’t the first of April, I reluctantly concluded it must be factual:

Local authorities have ordered employees to stop using the words and phrases on documents and when communicating with members of the public and to rely on wordier alternatives instead.
The ban has infuriated classical scholars who say it is diluting the world’s richest language and is the “linguistic equivalent of ethnic cleansing”.
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.
In instructions to staff, the council said: “Not everyone knows Latin. Many readers do not have English as their first language so using Latin can be particularly difficult.”
The details of banned words have emerged in documents obtained from councils by the Sunday Telegraph under The Freedom of Information Act.
Of other local authorities to prohibit the use of Latin, Salisbury Council has asked staff to avoid the phrases ad hoc, ergo and QED (quod erat demonstrandum), while Fife Council has also banned ad hoc as well as ex officio.

This is, of course, gibbering idiocy, but what puzzles me is the fact that a number of councils have taken such measures, which suggests to me that there is somewhere in the U.K. a failed Latin student whose bitterness is such that he could not be satisfied with writing outraged letters to The Times but embarked on a tour of the land, stopping in Bournemouth, Salisbury, Fife, and who knows where else long enough to convince a majority of the local councils to ban the hated tongue.
I am happy to report that classicist and blogger Mary Beard has posted an appropriate response:

As I huffed to the Telegraph man, this is a dreadful example of ethnic cleansing applied to language. And, what is more, it totally misunderstands the nature of the English language which is ‘English’ precisely by virtue of it being very mixed indeed, as much ‘foreign’ as it is ‘native’; indeed more so. ‘NB’ is now as much English as it was even Latin. In fact it has much wider currency and usage in modern English than it ever did in antiquity.
What will be left, I wonder when they turn their attention to other ‘foreign’ words. No RSVP, or bungalow, rendezvous, or karaoke. The list is endless.
Meanwhile the overworked functionaries at benighted Bournemouth Council are busy thinking us clunky English equivalents for all this nasty Latin….

I certainly hope these initiatives fall under a hail of public derision. (My thanks to Peony, who has recently graced the LH comment threads and who sent me the Beard link.)

Comments

  1. Now if they would only have the guts to start applying this to legal language! But they wouldn’t dare, of course, because the legal profession is far more articulate and cohesive than the scattered forces of the general public.
    This kind of policy could lead to two worlds of English. One the dumbed down version for the great unwashed. And the other the arcane language of real English usage where things can really matter — commerce and the law. By feeding people only the language that they can “understand”, these people are actually denying them the opportunity to enter the big bad world of power.
    Well, perhaps it will all even out in the end. The people who were shielded from all this nasty Latin will one day turn on the lawyers and other folk and tell them to stop using language that they have never seen.

  2. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    Somebody should inform them that “vis-à-vis” is French, not Latin.

  3. The latest twist is that Bournemouth Council has proposed to use Greek instead. It is, after all, the learned council kat’ exoken.

  4. The irony of course is that many people without English as their first language will speak a latin-derived language instead.

  5. I suspect that we will find a disgruntled Carthaginian at the bottom of this.

  6. The focus on latin is deeply odd, but I do think most of those words and phrases are highly inappropriate when bureaucracies are communicating with the public. Those communications can have a huge impact on a person’s lives, so you better make sure they understand it. And using formal or hoity toity language is a way of intimadating people instead of acting like the people’s servants.

  7. It’s hard to take Mary Beard’s pronouncements seriously when she compares it to ethnic cleansing, even if you argue that she is technical correct to describe it thus. This is about a local council removing a few words from its acceptable vocabulary. Ethnic cleansing is about the systematic obliteration of an entire culture, often including the genocide of its population. Beard’s use of language seems more out of touch with things that matter in the world than Bournemouth council’s.
    Regardless of this, the test for using these words should surely be whether the intended audience understand them. I would expect most people can understand eg or NB, but it’s quite likely that many would not know what ex officio or prima facie mean.

  8. David,
    I believe the point here is that as with other types of prescriptions concerning usage, people who make them believe that the words or phrase they are banning or promoting are the only obstacles on the road to full comprehension and clear communication. Needless to say, this approach is naive and completely poinless and thus bound to be favored by your typical bureaucrat.
    There is more to writing simple and comprehensible texts than leaving out certain words. I spent a good portion of last week reading various items of legislation and other government materials on public health insurance. Their language was almost completely free of borrowings (whether Latin, French or German) and yet I still have no fracking clue how much I should pay in premiums and whether I can deduct my life insurance.

  9. This is one of those “if you don’t laugh you’ll scream” news items. As the representative of the great unwashed and undereducated that directives such as this lunacy are allegedly designed for, I’d like to repeat Mary’s wonderfully apt remark:
    “NB’ is now as much English as it was even Latin.”
    How many of THE hoi polloi this is supposedly aimed at helping would know that e.g., i.e., etc., are derived from Latin? Of those who do, how many would care? SFA, I suspect. That initialism derives entirely from Germanic sources, so should be acceptable to the loons who cooked up this absurdity.

  10. Illegitimi non carborundum.

  11. Roger, FCD says:

    Mrs. Beard has it exactly right, e.g., i.e., ex oficio and &ct ARE English. They have standard meanings, appear in English dictionaries and are in standard usage – almost universally.

  12. why stop at latin? why not jargon in general? i don’t understand cars so i don’t want to hear the mechanic say tachometer. they should say it’s a problem with my engine shaft rotation speed count-ey device.
    i’m really just upset because i don’t want to accept that all the time i spent studying latin in high school might have been a waste. perhaps we should only use words and descriptions found in Simple English wikipedia from here on out.

  13. Actually, while it sounds a bit over the top to ban latin words, I think this makes sense in many ways. Local authorities need to communicate clearly with their constituents. As a journalist, I would never dream of using latin in my texts, simply because I know how many people struggle with phrases that you or I would consider simple. It’s not pandering to the lowest common denominator, it’s effective communication.

  14. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Marie Clair, spokesman for the Plain English Campaign congratulated the councils for introducing the bans (she sounds a bit French to me, and shouldn’t that be spokesperson? Oh no, that’s only in Derbyshire), said: “It is not right that voters should suffer because of some official’s ego.”
    Or, as we now say: ‘some official’s ‘I, myself’.
    If every council in Britain has a different set of rules about language, in about two hundred years …

  15. No doubt Bournemouth residents will find some choice Anglo-Saxon words to use when dealing with the council in future!

  16. josephdietrich says:

    The council is of the opinion that people with an even marginal grasp of English don’t understand the meaning of “etc”? Really? I mean, I’m all for making language more accessible and avoiding obscure jargon, but come on.

  17. I’ve just looked at my local council’s website (Richmond in SW London). Here are some of the phrases used: best value perfomance indicators, team space, location-independent, corporate equality action plan, curtilage of a dwellinghouse … and many more. A case of the pot calling the kettle black, I think.

  18. A.J.P. Crown says:

    In my campaign to make Latin the official language of Norway I say that everyone ought to be allowed to speak whatever language they want, we simply ask that they don’t pollute official Latin air. In future, any Norwegian and Bournemouthian speakers will do it outside the office, in the cold, trying to look as if they’re doing something useful.

  19. Basically, a very sound idea, that more levels everywhere should adapt.
    In Sweden, there have since several years ago been a tendency to not cleanse language, but encouraging “writing clearly”. Already from the beginning we weren’t that infested by Latin, but the efforts address many expressions that are outdated in normal speech or smell of legalese.
    In 1993, the Cabinet Office produced a Black List of (“Swedish”) words and expressions and how they should be replaced.
    When we entered the EEC, and later on joining the EG, there were recommendations for translators not to follow the medieval (my label…) style of the original documents when translating, but to break up long sentences, use a more everydayish language, and generally concentrate on comprehensibility to the general public.
    Goodbye to the EG ideal of “please change the second word of the third paragraph in …”. Without resorting to the encumbent original, such requests could easily result in selecting the wrong word, leading to a totally different version. Supplying the complete old vs. the new paragraph would be (at least more) unambiguous.
    Examples of EEC Latin to be avoided in Swedish: ex officio, bona fide, a posteriori, mutatis mutandis, de jure et de facto, pro rata. We are also advised to translate any French in English texts into Swedish, like the aforementioned vis-à-vis, and travaux péparatoires, l’acquis etc. ;-)

  20. Richard J says:

    Legal language actually has been tidied up in the UK quite considerably – most of the more obscure latin tags are now no longer in fashion. An interesting thing to do is to compare an English court’s judgment with an American one – the former generally are far clearer (and occasionally witty)… As for Indian judgements, the only one I’ve seen was written in the most bizarrely staccato English with a tonal register all over the place.

  21. Kellen: ‘Rotation’ is a very hard word. Can you change it to something simpler, say ‘turning’? (I had the experience, some time back, of having to explain ‘inimical’ to a student. I wondered how she made it through high school and partway through college without having encountered the word.)

  22. I also agree with David Weman … errrm … et al; it’s sound advice to avoid, in public communication, phrases that not everyone will get. What’s the alternative? Use Latin and have a “Fuck ‘em” view about people who don’t understand? And they don’t: I do printing work for local tradespeople, and had recently to explain “ambiguous” when I used the word while discussing changes to a poster.
    I confess that even though I do know a bit of Latin (via a science background rather than ever studying it) I had to look up what “ex officio”, “inter alia” and “prima facie” meant.

  23. Christophe Strobbe says:

    David Weman wrote: “The focus on latin is deeply odd.”
    Not really: it’s about one lingua franca finishing off another (though older) one. French and Spanish are next. ;-)
    Sic transit gloria mundi!

  24. Actually, while it sounds a bit over the top to ban latin words, I think this makes sense in many ways. Local authorities need to communicate clearly with their constituents. As a journalist, I would never dream of using latin in my texts, simply because I know how many people struggle with phrases that you or I would consider simple. It’s not pandering to the lowest common denominator, it’s effective communication.
    1) If it’s about effective communication, then talk about effective communication. Banning Latin is not “over the top,” it’s completely irrelevant. As others have pointed out, it’s not only possible but all too common to be incomprehensible using only good honest English words.
    2) You don’t use “etc.”? Really?
    Basically, a very sound idea, that more levels everywhere should adapt. In Sweden, there have since several years ago been a tendency to not cleanse language, but encouraging “writing clearly”.
    See above. If you want to encourage “writing clearly,” encourage “writing clearly.” Latin has nothing to do with it.
    I think Mary Beard’s comparison to ethnic cleansing is a good one; in both cases, a perceived problem is dealt with not by attacking the problem itself (whether one of communication or of, say, economics), which would require a lot of effort and clear thinking, but by attacking something else that will not solve the problem but will appeal to the masses and require no thinking whatever (get rid of Latin words/”those people”).

  25. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Bournemouth council said: “Many readers do not have English as their first language so using Latin can be particularly difficult.”
    Huh?
    Lugubert: We weren’t that infested by Latin Yeah, but you’re pretty infested with German, Norwegian and Danish, so how about cleansing those? Swedish is going to be so easy to learn for us stupid foreigners when there are only five words left. What Bournemouth council does today, Sweden does tomorrow!

  26. A.J.P. Crown says:

    For anyone wondering where Bournemouth is, it’s near Torquay, where Fawlty Towers is set, and it’s the same kind of place. I rest my case (though I’m not sure what Basil’s position would be on this).

  27. The obvious conclusion is that Bournemouth will start using the language used by Poul Anderson in his essay “Uncleftish Beholding”…
    Shire moots have bidden their workers to stop using the words and wordbands on scrivings when speaking with borel folk, and to turn to other longer speechways.
    The ban has enraged wizards of Roman and Greek matters who say it is watering down the world’s richest tongue and is the “tonguely peer of folkish cleansing”.
    Bournemouth Moot, which has the Latin warcry “Pulchritudo et Salubritas”, meaning comeliness and health, has listed 19 words it no longer thinks right 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 tale of more wordy placemen includes “for this single why”, in place of ad hoc and “as things are” or “state of things”, instead of status quo.
    The council said: “Not everyone knows Latin. Many readers do not have English as their first speech, so using Latin can be particularly hard.”
    The banned words have come out in scrivings obtained from moots by the Sunday Farwriter under The Freedom of Wisdom Deed.
    Of other shire moots to ban the use of Latin, Salisbury Moot has asked staff to avoid the wordbands ad hoc, ergo and QED (quod erat demonstrandum), while Fife Moot has also banned ad hoc as well as ex officio.

  28. Christophe Strobbe says:

    A.J.P Crown wrote: “I’m not sure what Basil’s position would be on this.”
    Ego Torquay natus sum, nusquam sapio!

  29. marie-lucie says:

    Ajay, good try, but avoid, council, enrage, includes, obtained, place, state and use do not belong.

  30. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Pulchritudo et salubritas ad Barcelonam pertineat!

  31. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Oops. ‘Pertineant’, obviously.

  32. Is this Latin-purging movement related to the Plain English campaign that I’ve heard about in the UK?

  33. Thanks, marie-lucie… it was a hasty effort! And I was rather proud of the Freedom of Wisdom Deed.

  34. John Emerson says:

    This really isn’t or shouldn’t be about Latin at all. It’s about what kind of English vocabulary to use. All these words are English words which are the same as, or similar to, the Latin words from which they were derived. They’re guilty, if anything, of being officialese or some other kind of elite vocabulary.

  35. John Emerson says:

    This really isn’t or shouldn’t be about Latin at all. It’s about what kind of English vocabulary to use. All these words are English words which are the same as, or similar to, the Latin words from which they were derived. They’re guilty, if anything, of being officialese or some other kind of elite vocabulary.

  36. Does anyone here really think status quo, et cetera, ad hoc and pro rata are “elite” vocabulary? In the American business world, at least, these are all quite common words. I’m sure for most speakers they don’t even register as foreign derived.

  37. No obvious connection with the Plain English campaign, which actually works quite well. A recent Dept of Work and Pensions document I saw was excellent in this respect, and having been a fount of jargon, the dept. has now won a Plain English Award.
    Lugubert: I’m curious as to how you replace l’acquis communautaire, which has always seemed a problem to render in two words in English. Could you work through Swedish to English on that for me ?

  38. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Lazar: Is this Latin-purging movement related to the Plain English campaign that I’ve heard about in the UK?
    From the Telegraph article: However, the Plain English Campaign has congratulated the councils for introducing the bans.
    Marie Clair, its spokesman, said: “If you look at the diversity of all our communities you have got people for whom English is a second language. They might mistake eg for egg and little things like that can confuse people.
    “At the same time it is important to remember that the national literacy level is about 12 years old and the vast majority of people hardly ever use these terms.
    “It is far better to use words people understand. Often people in power are using the words because they want to feel self important. It is not right that voters should suffer because of some official’s ego.”

  39. Replace the Latin tags with bits of Welsh or Gaelic, and enjoy two different versions of PC having a tussle. Hint: a “Tigh Beg” is not what they make tea with in Morningside.

  40. @Mr Crown: For anyone wondering where Bournemouth is, it’s near Torquay, where Fawlty Towers is set
    Bournemouth is nearly 100 miles from Torquay.

  41. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Look, this is the world wide web, there are people here who live in the bush, people in the Antipodes who think of a hundred mile drive as being just next door. And, anyway, Bournemouth and Fawlty Towers are next door if you drive with your poetic license.

  42. J. Del Col says:

    It’s damned well about time Latin got the boot. If Anglo-Saxon was good enough for Beowulf, it ought to do for Fred Smith from Croydon, by gadfrey.
    And I do mean Anglo-Saxon, none of this frenchified modern English.

  43. There are some concepts that are really hard to express in Ander-Saxon: I finally had to use the word risk in my pamphlet “What To Do When You Are Stopped In Markland”, loosely adapted from a similar ACLU pamphlet on the rights of arrested persons in the U.S., for lack of an alternative. At least risk sounds pretty Germanic.

  44. And I do mean Anglo-Saxon, none of this frenchified modern English Chaucerian crap.
    Fixed.

  45. Richard J,
    What does “with a tonal register all over the place” mean in a description of written, not spoken, judgment?

  46. A.J.P. Crown says:

    He was waiting for somebody to ask that.

  47. mollymooly says:

    It’s easy to tell your employees “don’t write things the person you’re writing to might not understand”, but your employees might not have the patience, empathy, or craft to do so.
    Whereas anybody can add a few words to their word processor’s blacklist.

  48. Gareth Rees says:

    I think this is a non-story, a manufactured controversy. Of course public bodies have guidelines for how to communicate with the public: it’s their job to communicate clearly with the users of public services, not all of whom are native English speakers or highly educated. Having guidelines is perfectly proper, and each council makes up its own: it’s not like this is an organized measure.
    The idea that this amounts to a “ban” is clearly the option of someone who is pushing this story, and my guess is that this man is Telegraph writer Gerald Warner. Take a look at this comment piece which appeared on November 2 (the day before this news broke):
    “Latin is a useful litmus test. It separates the civilised, as in past centuries, from the Goths and Vandals. Britain’s local councillors give cretinism a bad name. Talking heads on television constantly debate theoretical ways of reforming local government and its funding. They are wasting their time. The solution is to abolish local government and return our municipal politicians to their former careers as bin men and village idiots. O tempora, O mores!”
    The man’s a reactionary idiot, but he clearly has some talent at trolling, so let’s not bite.

  49. Gareth Rees says:

    s/option/opinion/
    My take on the whole thing is here.

  50. It’s not as if this is an organized measure. Please.

  51. Gareth, I’m confused. Are you claiming that the local councils do not in fact ban Latin expressions, and that the newspapers are simply lying about it? If all you’re claiming is that Warner has a bee in his bonnet and brought the bans to the attention of others, I see no problem with that, whether he’s a reactionary or not.

  52. Gareth Rees says:

    No, I’m saying that making guidelines requiring council employees to use simple English when writing official documents is an entirely reasonable thing for local councils to do. It may do a small amount of good (the Plain English Campaign didn’t just make up the idea that government services were made harder to access by the difficulty of understanding official jargon), and it is unlikely to do very much harm even if they go a bit too far and disrecommend a handful of otherwise useful words.
    Nothing bad follows from some employee of Bournemouth Borough Council having to write “among other things” instead of “inter alia” on its Data Protection statement — and it’s just possible that some people may find the statement a little easier to understand.
    I am also pointing out that Mr Warner is pushing this story because he is attached to the use of Latinisms as a marker of status and privilege (“a litmus test [that] separates the civilised … from the Goths and Vandals”) and that by repeating the story largely uncritically the press is helping his cause.

  53. Bill Poser: This is another of those cases where being a linguist actually hurts rather than helping. The “tonal” here refers to this tone, not this tone.

  54. No, I’m saying that making guidelines requiring council employees to use simple English when writing official documents is an entirely reasonable thing for local councils to do.
    But that’s not what they’re doing. If they were doing that, nobody would have a problem with it. If they are in fact trying to eliminate vice versa and etc., they’re idiots and deserve all the negative publicity.
    I am also pointing out that Mr Warner is pushing this story because he is attached to the use of Latinisms as a marker of status and privilege
    I don’t give a damn. If people don’t want to give him ammunition, they shouldn’t behave like idiots.

  55. Newspeak is no longer “the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year”.
    Doubleplusungood.

  56. It’s probably harder for Americans to evaluate this, but my understanding is the British system still actually teaches “the classics” (Greek and Latin?) as part of a liberal arts education. So in England this would be a marker of an educated person as opposed to Nigel the Wino who happens to be the mayor’s cousin who dropped out of school in the fifth grade at the age of 16 and wants a job in city hall.
    It’s not clear what documents the language ban applies to. It says “on documents AND when communicating with members of the public”. Legal documents do require a specialized language. Internal financial and other documents may also need specialized language to communicate effectively. It’s hard to think of a valid reason for dumbing down internal documents.
    And banning etcetera? That’s just plain weird.

  57. Mr Warner is pushing this story because he is attached to the use of Latinisms as a marker of status and privilege (“a litmus test [that] separates the civilised … from the Goths and Vandals”
    The Goths and Vandals were not necessarily lacking in “status and privilege.” They were outsiders who knew how to slash and pillage but didn’t have a clue about how to administer Rome. Goths and Vandals had their own hierarchy.
    Rome did have a stratified social structure, with the elites and peasants forbidden to intermarry. The lower classes were farmers who were called on every time the city needed soldiers to fend off the latest attack. They were just as “civilised” or Roman as the elites (who did not serve in the military).
    So no, using the “Goths and Vandals” metaphor does not imply “a marker of status and privilege”. It is more a marker of who has been socialized sufficiently to have internalized the goal of preservation of the governmental structure.

  58. Do you want your e.g. fried or poached?

  59. Electric Dragon says:

    Nijma: Latin and Greek are now very rare in British state schools, particularly comprehensive ones. I took GCSE Latin (about 15 years ago), but it was optional and only available to A-level students*. In a comprehensive school of nearly a thousand, there were three of us in my year taking Latin, and Greek wasn’t available.
    I was trying to find the source documents as there are no direct quotes of them in the Telegraph article. However, I did find the following statement on Bournemouth Council’s website – “Bournemouth Council must correct inaccurate reporting in several national media.
    The Council has not banned any Latin words or phrases. Two years ago, we issued advice to our staff to encourage plain, appropriate and easily-understood language. This includes considering whether or not various phrases, including jargon and Latin, are appropriate for the particular audience that the information is aimed at.”

  60. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Dragon, well researched, but the Telegraph article says Bournemouth Council… 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.
    So who’s lying, the Bournemouth Council or the farty guy at the Telegraph? I don’t trust either one. (For non-Brits, The Daily Telegraph is the most right-wing national daily in Britain, it’s not a paper you would want to get your news from unless you were fairly right-wing yourself.) And then, don’t forget Salisbury and Fife.

  61. Which Tyler says:

    AJP Crown: the Telegraph is by no means the most right-wing daily in Britain, and as Tory papers go it is in fact pretty moderate.
    The mad, bad frothing-at-the-mouth right-wing papers are, of course, the Mail and the Express.

  62. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Aha. I haven’t lived in Britain for thirty years, so I’m an unreliable source. The furthest to the right of the so-called ‘quality’, or ‘very few tits and bums’ press, then?

  63. AJP: It’s a toss-up between the Torygraph and The Murdoch-ed Times …

  64. A google search of the Fife council website turns up the following numbers of hits. Apparently the Scots write eg or e.g. with or without periods.
    vice versa=68
    per=38,700
    eg=3,830
    etc=10,100
    bona fide=1
    ad hoc=5
    ex officio=0
    A search of Salibury council website:
    vice versa=12
    per=745
    eg=609
    etc=676
    bona fide=7
    ad hoc=46
    ergo=1
    The item the word “ergo” appears in none other than the “Salisbury District Council – Corporate identity protocol Visual identity guide-Publications and printed material guide-Editorial style guide” (see p. 16) which references the Plain English Campaign and provides a link. And oh, my, the Plain English Campaign has a blacklist of words here:
    http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/guides.htm
    along with free software you can use to check a publication for them. Well, THAT didn’t take a FOI request.
    And the google search for Bournemouth council:
    vice versa=53
    per=5,420
    eg=2,870
    etc=3,120
    bona fide=47
    ad hoc=133
    prima facie=4
    NB=320 (I never heard of this one before Hat used it last week-and thought it was some esoteric editing markup abbreviation)
    pro rata=53
    quid pro quo=1
    flagrante delicto=0
    The Latin Police have got some catching up to do if they want to be taken as seriously as the Ministry Of Silly Walks.

  65. Electric Dragon says:

    AJP, that’s why I was looking for the primary sources in this case. Some public bodies (like the BBC, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/foi/docs/responses.shtml ) publish some FOI responses rather than just providing them to the original requester: Bournemouth appears only to have a Request Log – a monthly summary of requests submitted. October’s isn’t up yet and no matching request was submitted in August or September.
    Also worth thinking about “the dogs that didn’t bark” – there are over 400 councils in the UK. Did he pick on those councils in particular or just send out requests to all (or just lots) of them and pick the responses he thought sounded most “loony”?

  66. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I looked on the Fife site and they’re only giving their instructions in private on their intranet pages, but the Salisbury one is fairly open. Salisbury Council are just trying to tell the staff to speak more clearly to the punters, to sound less bureaucratic, in other words — and that’s good, I’d say — but it could be there’s also someone there, as Language was saying, who’s got a grudge against Latin. There were a couple of odd anti-Latin remarks, I thought.
    If you’d had some of my Latin masters you would certainly understand how someone might be driven insane.

  67. BSG Johnny says:

    I seems to me that some other languages (notably the asian ones) have are similarly stratified. Could this be a etymological evolution towards that?

  68. Graham Asher says:

    14% of British children, including my own, are educated privately and most have the opportunity to learn Latin, if not Greek, which is rarer.
    I did Latin and Greek at a state school long ago. I must put in a word for my kindly classics master Sid Innes, who was always willing to explain alpha pure and impure, the second aorist or the rules of accentuation, as well as etymologies and philological curiosities, although he never could keep order in class. Requiescat in pace. We shall not see his like again.

  69. Paul:
    For l’acquis, the Swedish recommendation translated into English is something like “the EEC set of rules” (EG:s regelverk).

  70. @ J. Del Col:
    I would like to concur with you in expressing my abject horror at the declining vowel qualities used by youngsters today. One moment they’re pronouncing “night” with a diphthong (!), and the next moment they’ll be disputing the divine right of kings.
    Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells

  71. If you’d had some of my Latin masters you would certainly understand how someone might be driven insane.
    Ah, I remember tiny Brother Auger, who used to chase large young men around the classroom brandishing a ruler and reduce them to tears because they had not properly construed a passage from Caesar. Good times!

  72. David Marjanović says:

    The underlying weirdness, of course, is that there are no English abbreviations for English phrases like “for example” or “and so on”; the only available abbreviations are Latin. In German, we’ve translated the abbreviations along with the phrases themselves: z. B. — zum Beispiel; usw. — und so weiter. Same for Russian and Finnish. Etc. is in use in German, but it’s decidedly rarer than usw., and it’s not considered the same, even though it’s a synonym.
    Inter alia is not used at all in German; instead, unter Anderem (exact translation, except that it’s singular) is used.
    Then there are abbreviations without Latin equivalents: u. a., u. v. a., u. v. a. m., u. ä. (“and others”, “and many others”, “and many others more”, “and similar ones/similar stuff”)…

    There are some concepts that are really hard to express in Ander-Saxon: I finally had to use the word risk

    That’s another case where you could simply have ripped German off: instead of riskieren, we regularly say Gefahr laufen, which means “to run the…” oopsie: “…risk”. Hm. “Danger” is again French… Sorry. I give up.

  73. A.J.P. Crown says:

    There was one who had been in the SAS, who used to walk around the classroom flicking a knife into the wooden desk-tops. He was very frightening. Then there was ‘Buster’ Reade, after he’d had a few drinks he would sit small boys in his lap. It was always the Latin masters. Those were the days…

  74. Good point – all the synonyms seem to be Romance-derived. Peril, risk, jeopardy, uncertainty, exposure… clearly the Anglo-Saxons were courageous because they literally had no word for danger.

  75. Lugubert:
    Thanks. Interesting. I can see the reasoning,and it works, but to me it still doesn’t quite give the sense I feel of l’acquis – of “acquired”. But I’m just being picky.

  76. Ah, so dumbing down is global.
    And here I thought it was an American thing.
    I never took a Latin course and yet I learned those terms. I actually want to understand every word I read, not most.
    I love the richness of the English language and that sort of thinking just sterilizes it.
    I don’t think accommodating stupidity is the way to go.

  77. A.J.P. Crown says:

    David Marjanović: Same for Russian and Finnish.
    And Norwegian (Dansk, Svensk, osv.)
    Etc. is…decidedly rarer than usw., and it’s not considered the same, even though it’s a synonym.
    Tell us more, David…

  78. David Marjanović says:

    Well, it’s considered the abbreviation of “et( )cetera”, while usw. is considered the abbreviation of “und so weiter”. While in English i. e. is de facto considered the abbreviation of “that is”, and e. g. that of “for example”.

  79. I think that I approve of this and congratulate any council that tries to make their messages clearer to understand even though this is a cackhanded way of doing it.
    People here will know what “inter alia” means, but some will be wrong about “inter alios”, and I agree with a previous poster that phrases such as “prima facie” or “ad hoc” should be avoided. English translations may be more verbose but if they are also more understandable then that’s an acceptable trade-off.
    But yes, banning “etc” and “NB” is absolutely bonkers.

  80. Dom Ramos says:

    Marie Clair, spokesman for The Plain English campaign, whose surname means ‘Clear’ in French, is plainly an idiot. She says:
    “It is far better to use words people understand. Often people in power are using the words because they want to feel self important. It is not right that voters should suffer because of some official’s ego”
    Er…’ego’ is a plain english word, is it, Marie? It doesn’t mean ‘I’ in Latin, then???!!

  81. I think that I approve of this and congratulate any council that tries to make their messages clearer to understand even though this is a cackhanded way of doing it.
    Everyone approves of “this” if by “this” you mean “trying to make messages clearer”; that’s not what we’re (or at least what I’m) talking about. The issue is specifically the lazy, stupid method of banning Latin words and expressions.

  82. fimus scarabaeus says:

    no more gold standard for meanings, just use the mad hare from Alice’s word meanings,
    Now English is free to mean ‘wot’ ever it means.
    Of course if it is intended that Everyone in UK need the comprehend all that be written in English, then there is only one word that is understood by all.

  83. Wot is it?

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