Latin abbreviations for beginners
Yes, I have been away for a number of months. Once I let it slide, it really slides. However, I haven't been idle: you can read what I have been doing at this site. Part of the LiveJournal community is a group calling itself the Grammar Police and they keep on noticing the same things I have been writing about over the past three years - those who don't know what an apostrophe is for, those who think it's always wrong to say "James and me", those who don't know or don't care about their/their/they're. All these and more are there in abundance. Yes it DOES matter.
However, I thought I would try something else, because it matters too: the misuse of three little Latin abbreviations, which people think they understand.
Unfortunately, there are people who don't know which is which, or don't think it matters. These people appear to include some of those who write the Pocket Whitaker's Almanac. So, for their benefit and yours, here is a quick rundown of what's good and glorious with these three.
- e.g. - exempli gratia for example / such as
- i.e. - id est that is
- etc. - et cetera and so on / and others
e.g. - exempli gratia for example
This is used if you are giving a few examples of something.
I have flown with a number of American airlines, e.g. Pan Am, Eastern, TWA.
Leaving aside for a moment the fact that my examples have something else in common apart from being American, they are just examples of airlines. I have also flown with United and Aloha and possibly others. I was just giving examples, so the list did not have to be complete if introduced with e.g.
i.e. - id est that is
This is quite different: any list offered must be complete, any illustration must be absolute.
Mars has two moons: i.e. Phobos and Deimos.
The bus will leave every two hours until the event has finished: i.e. 2pm, 4pm, 6pm and 8pm.
So if you're still there at nine o'clock, you'll need to call a taxi.
etc. - et cetera and so on
So your list isn't complete or it can't be complete?
The planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, etc. all orbit the sun.
I was told once that if you can complete your list, you should do so. In the example above, I can't give you full marks, because I don't know whether you know what the other planets are. If you don't know, you don't deserve the marks. If you are too lazy to write them down, you don't deserve the marks either.
Sometimes, you can't write the full list down.
The square numbers, 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, etc., are alternately odd and even. However, you can't write all of them. The list goes on for ever.
So what goes wrong?
People use i.e. when they mean e.g.
For this word puzzle, you need to pick a six letter word, i.e. CAMERA. This word puzzle won't be much fun, because you have been told which word to choose. The i.e. says "that is" so you have to choose that word.
For a word puzzle that's more fun, choose a five letter word, e.g. RAVEN. That's better. I've suggested one word and I'm probably going to explain how the puzzle works, and then you'll be able to try it with a word of your own. By the way, why is a raven like a writing desk?
People use e.g. and etc. together.
The queens of England, e.g. Anne, Victoria, Elizabeth I, etc.
In English that says: for example Anne, Victoria, Elizabeth I and so on. If you are giving examples, you don't want to say "and so on".
So it may not be the finest issue I've ever written, but we're back into it at last. More soon. Merry Christmas!
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