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Caveat lector? No problem, just ban Latin.
Thread poster: Edwal Rospigliosi

Edwal Rospigliosi  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:58
Member (2004)
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Nov 3, 2008

Some UK councils have banned the use of Latin in official documents because not everybody understands them. So instead of teaching the meaning and perhaps increase the literacy level, they simply call it "elitist" and prohibit its use.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/3362150/Councils-ban-elitist-and-discriminatory-Latin-phrases.html



[Editado a las 2008-11-03 09:20]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:58
Member (2003)
Danish to English
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Thanks for the warning, Edwal! Nov 3, 2008

Now I will have to start proof reading my work extra carefully and remove all the forbidden expressions. I can finally get back at my Latin teacher, and dismiss all her sarcasm and 'you can do better' at the bottom of my work as elitist.

Or have you seen the advert at the bottom right of the page?
In the view I see at least, it is an offer for free language learning software - Learn Latin for free! I'm not sure I am allowed to give a link here, but I would love to send one to all the councils mentioned.

Before they start banning expressions like bon appetit, ciao, and all the other non-English expressions. I mean, lots of people might not understand those either.
We wouldn't have a language left!

And if they start on food, whole sections of the population will starve!


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RichardDeegan
Local time: 15:58
Spanish to English
Quam ob rem, Britania? Nov 3, 2008

Sheesh

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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
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Banning technical terms? Nov 3, 2008

Edwal Rospigliosi wrote:

Some UK councils have banned the use of Latin in official documents because not everybody understands them. So instead of teaching the meaning and perhaps increase the literacy level, they simply call it "elitist" and prohibit its use.


I wonder when they will start doing this with medical and botanical terms..


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Phil Bird
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
Transparency... Nov 7, 2008

Some "Political Correctness" issues are too extreme/ridiculous but I'm not sure that I see any problem with "public servants" ensuring that their "masters" can understand what they are saying....

Of course the devil is in the detail - the language used should be widely understood, whatever its root - there's no reason to get rid of a word like etcetera and there are plenty of other loan words that are now widely understood in English.... Likewise I wouldn't want to get a council tax statement in the language of the Venerable Bede, however English he may have been...

If they wanted to remove Latin words from the books in their libraries, well that would be another story....

[Edited at 2008-11-08 10:08]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:58
Member (2007)
English
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Does that include all the abbreviations? Nov 7, 2008

Do we need to convert a.m. p.m. A.D. e.g. i.e. p.a. ? What do we convert them to ? i.t.m. i.t.a. i.t.y.o.o.l. g.e. t.i. p.y. ? Does anyone believe they are more understandable ?

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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:58
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Ouch!! Nov 7, 2008

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Do we need to convert a.m. p.m. A.D. e.g. i.e. p.a. ? What do we convert them to ? i.t.m. i.t.a. i.t.y.o.o.l. g.e. t.i. p.y. ? Does anyone believe they are more understandable ?


'nuff said...


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:58
French to English
Not the council's role Nov 7, 2008

Edwal Rospigliosi wrote:
So instead of teaching the meaning and perhaps increase the literacy level, they simply call it "elitist" and prohibit its use.


Unfortunately, the national curriculum is set at the national level.

Local councils simply have to deal with the reality of the educational standard attained by those with whom they come into contact.

Which includes a proportion for whom English is not a native language, and wouldn't be even if the UK's national curriculum included study of the classics to degree level, because they have arrived here in adulthood. It should also not be overlooked that many of those availing themselves of council services are from the more disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of the community. They need clear information presented in a fashion that is immediately understandable. I'm no particular fan of dumbing down in general, but I do believe that everything has a time and place, and confronting those in need of assistance with documents that only serve to increase their sense of alienation, frsutration and separation is of little use to them, the council or indeed ultimately the rest of us.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:58
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English
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a.m. is English; ante-meridien is Latin Nov 7, 2008

Charlie Bavington wrote:

confronting those in need of assistance with documents that only serve to increase their sense of alienation, frsutration and separation is of little use to them, the council or indeed ultimately the rest of us.


Notwithstanding my previous post about the many latin-origin abbreviations that exist in the English language (Who needs to know that a.m. = ante-meridien? What is ante-meridien anyway? A.m. means "in the morning", doesn't it?), I quite agree with the statement above - it's important for English to be a language that is understood by everybody. I find it quite difficult enough as an English teacher to teach English, I'd rather not digress into teaching my French students Latin as well.

I continue to support the "Plain English Campaign" in its aim to make English understandable to all, not just native-speaking university academics. Let's agree that many English words have their roots in Latin (as do many other European languages), but let's not use Latin as a snob tool.


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:58
English to Hungarian
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Sorry, Charlie Nov 8, 2008

Charlie Bavington wrote:

Edwal Rospigliosi wrote:
So instead of teaching the meaning and perhaps increase the literacy level, they simply call it "elitist" and prohibit its use.


Unfortunately, the national curriculum is set at the national level.

Local councils simply have to deal with the reality of the educational standard attained by those with whom they come into contact.

Which includes a proportion for whom English is not a native language, and wouldn't be even if the UK's national curriculum included study of the classics to degree level, because they have arrived here in adulthood. It should also not be overlooked that many of those availing themselves of council services are from the more disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of the community. They need clear information presented in a fashion that is immediately understandable. I'm no particular fan of dumbing down in general, but I do believe that everything has a time and place, and confronting those in need of assistance with documents that only serve to increase their sense of alienation, frsutration and separation is of little use to them, the council or indeed ultimately the rest of us.


The whole thing is total nonsense, and those who perpetrate it never thought it over.

The foreigner, who doesn't speak English when coming into the UK, would not know the origin of the word or expression he hears or manages to read. Moreover, he couldn't care less. He would learn these together with the English words he picks up, and would use it the same way as anybody else. These expressions are no more difficult or foreign to them than any other.

Not only that, but the other side of the coin is - which nobody seems to think of - that a lot of these expressions are used the same way in other languages, and in that case, these are very welcome relief to the hapless foreigners and helps them to understand a bit more than they would otherwise.

The only people who are bothered by this are the educationally challenged (sic) who managed to understand that some of the words they are using - oh, shock, horror - are borrowed from an ancient language, and retained their original form and meaning. These are the ones striving to achieve dumbing down in the name of political correctness.

[Edited at 2008-11-08 21:37]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:58
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English to Afrikaans
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They do have a point, though Nov 8, 2008

Edwal Rospigliosi wrote:
Some UK councils have banned the use of Latin in official documents because not everybody understands them.


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. ... ad hoc, status quo, ergo, QED, and ex officio.

In that list are a number of words that I had only ever encountered in English and had not known them to be Latin until it was pointed out to me. The items i.e., e.g., etc., via and vice versa I learnt while I learnt English. Arguably if other words were used in their place, I would have learnt those other words instead.

But I would not be able to translate all of those words into non-Latin English, and some of them I have only recently learnt the meaning of.

* Bona fide(s) is one -- until about 5 years ago I was well aware of the adjectival use of the term, but I would not have understood what it meant in a noun position at all.
* I still don't know what prima facie means.
* I think I know what "ad lib" means (having been exposed to stand-up comedy).
* I happen to know that i.e. and e.g. are often confused, because it was specifically pointed out to us in college in proofreading classes, so at least I know about those.
* I also don't know what quid pro quo means although I regularly encounter it in newspapers. You know, sometimes words make sense in context, and you get to know their meaning, but sometimes words do not seem to add anything to the text, and so you never quite know what they mean. And words get so abused by journalists, don't they?
* I have no idea what vis-a-vis means although I do encounter it sometimes.
* Another one I have no clue about is ex officio.
* I sometimes confuse QED, CQD and COD (don't laugh!).

From texts I've read, written by English native speakers, I gather that many people don't know what ad hoc really, really means. The same goes for status quo -- it is often used incorrectly, which leads me to think that using real English may be a better option there.

Now I just wonder if these councils will do the honourable thing and ban other nonsensical foreigh expressions in official documents as well, like laissez-faire, raison d'être, prêt-à-porter and cul-de-sac.

[Edited at 2008-11-08 16:28]


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gianfranco  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 17:58
Member (2001)
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Mala tempora currunt Nov 8, 2008

Edwal Rospigliosi wrote:
...instead of teaching the meaning and perhaps increase the literacy level, they simply call it "elitist" and prohibit its use.


GF


[Edited at 2008-11-08 16:57]


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Phil Bird
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:58
Spanish to English
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Dumbing down is bad, clear communication is good Nov 8, 2008

juvera wrote:

Charlie Bavington wrote:

Edwal Rospigliosi wrote:
So instead of teaching the meaning and perhaps increase the literacy level, they simply call it "elitist" and prohibit its use.


Unfortunately, the national curriculum is set at the national level.

Local councils simply have to deal with the reality of the educational standard attained by those with whom they come into contact.

Which includes a proportion for whom English is not a native language, and wouldn't be even if the UK's national curriculum included study of the classics to degree level, because they have arrived here in adulthood. It should also not be overlooked that many of those availing themselves of council services are from the more disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of the community. They need clear information presented in a fashion that is immediately understandable. I'm no particular fan of dumbing down in general, but I do believe that everything has a time and place, and confronting those in need of assistance with documents that only serve to increase their sense of alienation, frsutration and separation is of little use to them, the council or indeed ultimately the rest of us.


The whole thing is total nonsense, and those who perpetrate it never thought it over.

The foreigner, who doesn't speak English when coming into the UK, would not know the origin of the word or expression he hears or manages to read. Moreover, he couldn't care less. He would learn these together with the English words he picks up, and would use it the same way as anybody else. These expressions are no more difficult or foreign to them than any other.

Not only that, but the other side of the coin is - which nobody seems to think of - that a lot of these expressions are used the same way in other languages, and in that case, these are very welcome relief to the hapless foreigners and helps them to understand a bit more than they would otherwise.

The only people who are bothered by this are the educationally challenged (sic) who managed to understand that some of the words they are using - oh, shock, horror - are borrowed from an ancient language, and retained their original form and meaning. These are the ones striving to achieve dumbing down in the name of politically correctness.


I agree that anyone learning English does not need to know the origin of a word in order to use it properly and that it would be pretty stupid to ban words just because they have a Latin root.

However, some of the expressions highlighted are not really that well known in English - a large number of English people don't know what they mean (as as Samuel pointed out, there's quite a number who think they know what they mean - and don't!)

I don't think anyone should be concerned by the fact that a local council wants to make sure that their communications are understood by ALL the people who they represent. Communication that cannot be understood by its intended audience is not fit for purpose.

(and to think that Wikipedia reckons the Inkhorn Controversy was was over by the end of the 17th century!)


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:58
French to English
Sorry Juvera Nov 8, 2008

juvera wrote:
The foreigner, who doesn't speak English when coming into the UK, would not know the origin of the word or expression he hears or manages to read. Moreover, he couldn't care less. He would learn these together with the English words he picks up, and would use it the same way as anybody else. These expressions are no more difficult or foreign to them than any other.

True. Not that my post was solely, or even mainly, about immigrants, who, to be fair, often exhibit the sort of drive and determination, including to learn the language, that puts the locals to shame. However, if some recent arrival, having seen them on council documents, started bandying around terms like ex officio and prima facie in the corner shop or local pub, he could well end up wondering what kind of fool the council were trying to make of him. So the counter argument could well be, why not reinforce the use of commoner words that will be helpful to new arrivals in other situations?

Not only that, but the other side of the coin is - which nobody seems to think of - that a lot of these expressions are used the same way in other languages, and in that case, these are very welcome relief to the hapless foreigners and helps them to understand a bit more than they would otherwise.

Also not untrue, but also not always true, since, as with any cognates, meanings will drift over time. To pick the first alphabetical example I can think of, "ad hoc" does not always mean the same in French as it does in English. They are a "welcome relief" to be treated with caution.

The only people who are bothered by this are the educationally challenged (sic) who managed to understand that some of the words they are using - oh, shock, horror - are borrowed from an ancient language, and retained their original form and meaning. These are the ones striving to achieve dumbing down in the name of politically correctness.

I'm not quite sure what your point is there, to be honest.
It does remind me, however, that the public sector does not always employ the sharpest tools in the box, and that in fact many public sector workers would be well-advised to avoid using Latin words and phrases because of the risk that they will get it all horribly wrong. They are in fact better off explaining things using words they understand fully.
Witness the number of people apparently unable to distinguish between e.g. and i.e. - including on this very website:-).

No, while I'm no fan of "banning" anything and, as I said, am no fan of dumbing down either, when it comes to access for the needy (wherever they are from!) to council help, I'm support the plain English approach.


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:58
English to Hungarian
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That's a better argument Nov 8, 2008

Charlie Bavington wrote:
It does remind me, however, that the public sector does not always employ the sharpest tools in the box, and that in fact many public sector workers would be well-advised to avoid using Latin words and phrases because of the risk that they will get it all horribly wrong. They are in fact better off explaining things using words they understand fully.
Witness the number of people apparently unable to distinguish between e.g. and i.e. - including on this very website.

No, while I'm no fan of "banning" anything and, as I said, am no fan of dumbing down either, when it comes to access for the needy (wherever they are from!) to council help, I'm support the plain English approach.


I agree with you when you put it this way.

Of course, these questions remain:
what is Latin and what is plain English, (prior, abdomen, error, idea... just a few, unchanged words, off the top of my head);
and why do they think this is a particular problem for immigrants? Or shall I say, why are they trying to make people believe that?

[Edited at 2008-11-08 23:07]


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