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Monday, November 14, 2005

for example, that is, and other things 

I think it's funny when people stand up in front of a group and use words that they really don't know what they mean. I think it's especially funny when they start to make up words that have no meaning and all and pretend they know what they're talking about. For example, I heard someone say that they were absolutely "mortalized" (I guess instead of "mortified?") to realize a mistake they had made.

At any rate, I thought I would take the opportunity to comment on some common errors that I see when people try to use Latin abbreviations in English writing. The first has to do with the distinction between i.e. and e.g. The most frequent mistake is thinking that i.e. means "for example," when it actually is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase id est, or "that is." The Latin equivalent to "for example" is exempli gratia. Here is the proper usage:

"I love donuts, i.e., deep-fried batter commonly found as a
torus-shaped ring or a flattened sphere, often covered with
confectionary or injected with a sweet filling."
"I love donuts, e.g., Krispy Kreme hot glazed
and Dunkin Donuts French crullers."

My second beef is about the redundant use of the word "and" before the Latin abbreviation etc. The prase et cetera is translated "and the rest," not to be confused with et al., which is an abbreviation of several forms of a Latin phrase meaning "and others," used to stand for a list of names or "and elsewhere," used to stand for a list of places. In all cases, the English word "and" is understood as part of the Latin abbreviation, and should not be added. It's worse than using your PIN number at the ATM machine (you know, the new kind with the LCD display) on your way to pick up some KFC chicken. People who do that probably scored poorly on their SAT test and might be more likely to get the HIV virus.

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I have a deficiency. can you explain that whole scenario about the ATM and KFC? I must have misread it...unless of course you're being totally goofy, then it's pretty funny.


Aid will I provide if understanding you desire. ATM an acronym is. Stand for something the letters do. Redundant "machine" is.


Irregardless of your examples, it is still correct to say "the hoi polloi" when referring to the masses, even though hoi polloi means "the masses", or "the many", in greek. An explanation is given on wikipedia. Here is a portion of it.

"It is interesting to note that when hoi polloi was used by writers who had actually been educated in Greek, it was invariably preceded by the. Perhaps writers such as Dryden and Byron understood that English and Greek are two different languages, and that, whatever its literal meaning in Greek, hoi does not mean "the" in English. There is, in fact, no such independent word as hoi in English — there is only the term hoi polloi, which functions not as two words but as one, the sense of which is basically "commoners" or "rabble." In idiomatic English, it is no more redundant to say "the hoi polloi" than it is to say "the rabble," and most writers who use the term continue to precede it with *the* ..."[6].

I also propose that the redundancies you have mentioned are not necessarily so bad. Perhaps technically incorrect, they can serve a purpose. Here, another clip from wikipedia (i know, no original ideas from me).

"A grammatical tautology may be intended to amplify or emphasize a certain aspect of the thing being discussed: for example, a gift is by definition free of charge, but one might talk about a "free gift" if the fact that no money was paid is of particular importance. A tautology could also be used if a non-tautologous expression might not be taken at face value: for example, a business might offer its customers a "free gift", to distinguish itself from other businesses that claim to offer "gifts" but only give them in conjunction with a purchase. Similarly, a tautology could be used if the non-tautologous expression might be ambiguous or might not be understood: although PIN stands for "Personal Identification Number", one might refer to a "PIN number" if the intended audience is unfamiliar with the acronym, or to avoid confusion with the word pin... or in the southern United States, where "pen" and "pin" are often pronounced nearly identically, hence the use of the apparent tautology "ink pen". For these reasons, although tautologies are technically unnecessary, and may be considered incorrect, they are nonetheless common in some contexts."



Jason -

It slays me that you began your comment with the word "irregardless". Classic.


I thought you would appreciate that...



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