Ban Latin? Can they do that?

The latest linguistic new item is a U.K. edict to ban Latin phrasing in government publications (London Telegraph). Predicatbly, there is an expression of outrage, but how bad is this idea?

According to the article, only 19 terms are targeted for elimination by the Bournemouth Council, and most are ones that can be rephrased easily in native English. Examples include e.g. (“for example”), i.e. (“that is”), quid pro quo (“tit for tat”), etc. (and so forth) and others. They are a little longer, but it would be nice to avoid the whole i.e. versus e.g. debate.

But I doubt you will be able to eliminate Latin altogether – for instance, I just used the Latin word versus (in opposition to?) in the previous paragraph. It’s so commonly used (even in pro wrestling), that there really is no smooth native translation anymore. In this list, I would also include vice-versa, per se and ad lib – which are in the “banned list”.

Note that I haven’t even touched on legal terminology like habeas corpus (“the body writ”?) or subpoena (“the show up in court…or else” writ?). Not even the U.K. Bournemouth Council has alternatives for these.

While I applaud the Council’s desire to streamline the English language, I think they underestimate the impact Latin has had on our language. Not every Latin word is a “learned word” anymore but are real parts of everyday English vocabulary. It looks like that Latin, along with French, Greek, Italian and others, will be useful languages to know for enhancing your SAT score for sometime to come.

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