04 Nov 2008

Bournemouth Council Bans Latin

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The Telegraph reports one more blow on behalf of egalitarianism in Britain, the eradication of the use of Latin tags and abbreviations. Even this residual Latinity strikes some local officials as elitist.

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 (sic), 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.”

The details of banned words have emerged in documents obtained from councils by the Sunday Telegraph under The Freedom of Information Act.

Of other local authorities to prohibit the use of Latin, Salisbury Council has asked staff to avoid the phrases ad hoc, ergoand QED (quod erat demonstrandum), while Fife Council has also banned ad hoc as well as ex officio.

Quos deus vult perdere prius dementat. (Those whom God would destroy, he first makes mad.) – Euripedes

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Ray Greaves

I wonder where this will end and also who makes the decision as to which words are deemed to be Latin and therefore not allowed. ULTIMATELY it could lead to some book burning as the may contain ITEMS which do not conform to a particular organization’s AGENDA and the arguments PRO and CON could result in a QUASI formal EX judiciary FIAT or VETO. I wonder what a CENSUS of the PUBLIC would reveal.

Oh, the CAPITALIZATION just seemed to occur whenever a word with a link to Latin appeared. I don’t know how that happened!



Ray Greaves

Bournemouth Council replies to the media’s incorrect reporting that the council had banned 19 Latin words or phrases with the following press release.

“The Council has not banned any Latin words or phrases. Two years ago, we issued advice to our staff to encourage plain, appropriate and easily-understood language. This includes considering whether or not various phrases, including jargon and Latin, are appropriate for the particular audience that the information is aimed at.”

Forgetting for the moment the matter of Latin, I think the council should spend more of their ratepayer’s money in educating their staff in the correct formation of English prose. If memory serves me, ending a sentence with a preposition is just not done. I would have phrased it as “are appropriate for the particular audience to which the information is aimed” or even better (since we are not shooting the recipients), “are appropriate for the particular audience to which the information is directed”.

Of course, I doubt the Bournemouth ratepayers would wish to fund such language courses as this is the responsibility of the education system, so the more effective action would be to replace the staff with people who can demonstrate satisfactory command of the English language.



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