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.)