Sunday, November 2, 2008

Let's Be Like Europe: George Orwell redux (oops, sorry, not supposed to use that elitist term)

From the UK Telegraph [with h/t to The Libertarian Alliance}:

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....

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."...

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....

...the Plain English Campaign has congratulated the councils for introducing the bans.

Marie Clair, its spokesman, said: "If you look at the diversity of all our communities you have got people for whom English is a second language. They might mistake eg for egg and little things like that can confuse people.

"At the same time it is important to remember that the national literacy level is about 12 years old and the vast majority of people hardly ever use these terms.

"It is far better to use words people understand. Often people in power are using the words because they want to feel self important. It is not right that voters should suffer because of some official's ego."


I particularly like the admission that the national literacy level is about 12 years old as a commentary on the power of a modern Great British education.

4 comments:

G Rex said...

Funny, I was emptying the change from my pockets yesterday, and I noticed that I'd gotten a Canadian quarter from somebody. I hadn't got one in a while, and gave it a closer inspection. Right there by the portrait of Queen Bess is the inscription, "D. G. Regina" which stands for Dei Gratia, and translates to "Queen by the Grace of God." (When there's a king on the throne, they change it to D. G. Rex; pure coincidence!)

So anyway, we have kooks like Michael Newdow who want "In God we Trust" taken off our currency, but nobody in the commonwealth has a problem with the Divine Right of Kings? Hicat, sum quid est?

Back to the original topic, the Plain English crowd are engaged in class warfare, plain and simple, in that Latin is taught in public schools in Britain (what we would call private) but not in parochial schools (what we would call public) so a comprehension of Latin is seen as upper class snobbery.

Duffy said...

I think there's something to be said for Plain English laws. I don't mind the odd latin phrase here or there but many laws are written so as to be incomprehensible to anyone w/o a law degree (to some of them don't even get it). IIRC Steve even endorsed this initiative.

G Rex said...

One more thing; does this mean J.K. Rowling would have to revise all the spells in the Harry Potter books? Expelliaramus!

Steve Newton said...

Duffy
What I argued for is "plain English" in laws; not the elimination of etc., vice versa, and per se....

g rex
Good point=expelliarmus now equals "throw yourself out of his/her hand" which would take just sufficient time for Voldemort to convert you to ashes....