Mighty Red Pen

November 8, 2008

At the end of the day, et cetera

Filed under: Word wars,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 6:56 pm
Tags: , ,

While we in the United States were all getting our Barack Obama on last week, our neighbors across the way had their own reasons to get excited. Here are two:

British local officials ban the use of some Latin words in official documents. Detractors strike back:

“Professor Mary Beard, a professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge said: “This is absolute bonkers and the linguistic equivalent of ethnic cleansing. English is and always has been a language full of foreign words. It has never been an ethnically pure language.”

Whoa, the linguistic equivalent of ethnic cleansing? Them’s fighting words, to be sure. A quick search on this topic reveals many articles with over-the-top and yet amusing references to random Latin words and phrases. Latin is out of MRP’s sphere of expertise, although anyone who wishes to give it a go, please have at it.

And hat tip to Mighty Quinn (no relation to MRP) for the heads-up on the list of top ten irritating phrases as compiled by researchers at Oxford University. At the end of the day, and with all due respect, I personally believe that “it’s a nightmare” shouldn’t of made the list as it is fairly unique and can absolutely be used 24/7. You?



  1. Removing Latin from English seems like regulation ad nauseum. It reminds me of the loathsome French banning phrases like l’t-shirt and l’airport because they come from English. English is a mongrel language and should maintain its proud history of piracy on the grammatical high seas.

    As the linguist James D. Nicoll said,”The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that
    English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”

    Comment by David — November 10, 2008 @ 9:27 pm | Reply

  2. I’m not sure if you were being sarcastic, but I thought “it’s a nightmare” seemed out of place on the list too.

    I guess it’s become cliche to some people or maybe it annoys people who take “nightmare” literally.

    “With all due respect” is the worst. People always use it right before they say something disrespectful. I think it should be replaced with another phrase. Maybe “brace yourself for something awful.”

    Comment by Noel Sanchez — November 14, 2008 @ 9:38 am | Reply

  3. I suppose the Latin words aren’t being banned because they’re Latin, but because they are (believed to be) not easily understood by a significant number of people. So it’s about clarity, rather than purity.

    As the article suggests, I imagine that Latin words would pose a particular difficulty to people who speak English as a second language (and who don’t speak a Romance language as a first, obviously).

    Broadly, I’m in favour of local councils taking this sort of step.

    Comment by JD — November 26, 2008 @ 2:57 pm | Reply

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