More Latin words and phrases in English Writing
Welcome to Part 2, where we discuss more Latin words and phrases you might encounter (or need to use) in your writing. Don’t forget to check out Part 1 for some general tips and tricks for using Latin phrases.
We’ll start with two acronyms that get used a lot, but often get confused: “i.e.” and “e.g.”.
This is where the Allies (i.e. the British, Americans, etc.) landed on D-Day.
This stands for id est which translates as “in other words” or “that is to say”. This is used when more information (i.e. not part of a main clause – just like this) needs to be given.
Note on use
Do not start a sentence with “i.e.”. If you want to start a new sentence, rather use “In other words,…” This keeps everything neat and tidy. You can use “i.e.” in brackets like I did above, or at the end of the sentence using a comma.
The dog wasn’t very well behaved (e.g. he destroyed the couch and “watered” the pot plants).
This stands for exempli grata (kinda sounds like something that could get you expelled from Hogwarts) and translates to “for the same of example”. Pretty self-explanatory, really. You use it as when you want to give examples of something discussed in the sentence.
Note on use
Do not start a sentence with “e.g.”. Much like “i.e.”, rather use full words to start a sentence: “For example”. For the most part, reserve “e.g.” for the brackets/parentheses.
Don’t get confused
These two are often confused. To remember, I tell myself that the “egg” of e.g. sounds like “egg-sample” (example). That way I know that “e.g.” is the example one, and the “i.e.” is the more information one.
- i.e. – a deeper explanation/clarification of the thing.
- e.g. – an example (or instances) of the thing.
Hope this is useful.
He a priori assumed that the five-star hotel had clean rooms.
This literally means “self-evident” and refers to something that was known before/without experience. In other words, it is information/reasoning/knowledge that is deduced rather than gained through experience or observation. You know, like Sherlock.
He wasn’t quite compos mentis at the time.
Translates as “of sound mind” meaning “sane”. You might come across this term in a last will and testament, for example.
“Shut up. Anyway, she’s non compost mental,” said Granny.
“…you can’t order me. Witches are non-hierarchical…” said Magrat.
“This is wanton behaviour, Miss Garlick!”
“No, it’s not,” said Nanny Ogg, trying to keep the peace. “Wanton behaviour is where you go around not wearing any –”
Witches Abroad (1991:50) by Sir Terry Pratchett
She graduated law cum laude.
Translates to “with praise” and usually refers to a good result. Most often used to indicate that a degree was attained with a distinction.
She became the de facto parent of her little brother.
Translates to “in reality” regardless of what the law states. Although, who knows what this means in the Post-Truth world we live in now.
Translates to “among other things” and is self-explanatory. See Part 1 for examples.
He had to give in to the vox populi.
Translates to “the voice of the people” and refers to public opinion. The full term is actually “vox populi, vox dei” (the voice of the people is the voice of god) – this, of course, refers to how most forms of government have power only by virtue of their people giving them power in the first place. Might be worth posting about later.
The last word…
There are still more Latin terms, so join me for Part 3, when we discover what happens when you get god from the machine.
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Grammarly. E.G. vs. I.E. – What’s the Difference? Available at: https://www.grammarly.com/blog/know-your-latin-i-e-vs-e-g/ (Accessed on 05/08/2018)
Pratchett, T. 1991. Witches Abroad. Corgi Books: London.
Reader’s Digest. 1989. Reverse Dictionary. Berkeley Square: London.