Luke Taylor

Grammar Grater®

with Luke Taylor


Episode 21: A Spicy Latin Flavor

Sometimes my brothers and I would complain about our homework: it was dull, it was difficult, the usual piffle. "That's nothing," our dad would say. "When I was a kid we had to study Latin. It was boring, it was hard and worse yet—it's a dead language." The implicit message behind this gentle admonition was simply, "Do your homework."

So we'd hit the books and somewhat ironically, our studies eventually made it clear that Latin isn't completely dead. Sure, there aren't people who actively speak it anymore-save for Oxbridge or Ivy League secret societies and highly specialized scientific communities—but a lot of Latin finds its way into our writing and even our everyday language.

A handy Latin word that appears in print is sic. This is Latin for "thus" and it typically follows a misspelled word in a publication, indicating the editors are aware of the misspelling but want the word to appear that way anyway. A place one sees this a lot is in the letters-to-the-editor section of newspapers and magazines.

One Latin term that everyone knows is et cetera, which means "and other similar things; and so on" and is often abbreviated as etc. This phrase has the distinct—possibly dubious—honor of appearing in a 60s pop song called "Elenore" (sic) by the Turtles:
Elenore, gee, I think you're swell
And you really do me well
You're my pride and joy et cetera...
Et cetera tends to get confused at times with a couple other Latin phrases that are similar in meaning but the specificity is different.

When talking about a group of people, a better Latin phrase is et al (short for et alii, meaning "and others"). For example,
Joining us at the party were Fred, Jane, Harry, Susie, et al.
Now, saying it in conversation like that is rare, but this expression is most often used in scholarly writing, when referring to a journal article that was researched and written by a group of people, for example,
This study on technological advances was conducted by Driscoll, et al.
Another "et" phrase is et seq, short for et sequens and is used in writing as a way to refer to following pages. For example,
Find more information about the Sydney bus system on pages 110, 111, et seq, of this travel guidebook.
So far, we've used a few examples, which brings us to another good Latin phrase, exempli gratia, "for the sake of example." It's abbreviated as e.g.

Here's how it's used:
There are a number of writers from Boston, e.g. Stephen Greenblatt.
The Latin expression id est means "that is," and is shortened to i.e. or simply ie. For example,
A lot of writers come from Beantown, i.e. Boston.
Sometimes people mistakenly use i.e. when they mean to use e.g. Remember: i.e. is meant to clarify; e.g. precedes the use of an example.

Now again, like most Latin, you probably wouldn't say et seq or e.g. too often in conversation, but it's good to know how to use these terms in writing.

Source: Oxford Dictionary of Current English.

Music from this Episode: "Little Latin Lupe Lu" by The Righteous Brothers; "Elenore" by The Turtles; "Latin Hustle" by Joe Cuba.

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