Small Latin and less Greek were good enough for Shakespeare, but some Brits want to rid English of its classical roots
debaron at ILLINOIS.EDU
Tue Nov 11 05:29:12 UTC 2008
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Small Latin and less Greek were good enough for Shakespeare, but some
Brits want to rid English of its classical roots
Three town councils in England have banned Latin words and phrases
common in English because, as the folks in Bournemouth put it, "Not
everyone knows Latin." Even worse, Latin's a problem in Bournemouth no
matter what language you speak: "Many readers do not have English as
their first language so using Latin can be particularly difficult."
Banned from this seaside Dorset city of 163,000 with its seven miles
of sandy beaches are eg and ie,annoying abbreviations that now must be
replaced with the fully-articulated English for example andthat is.
Gone from Salisbury, best-known for Stonehenge, are ad hoc, ergo and
QED (Latin for ergo, sort of). And ex officio's officially out in
Fife, whose civil servants must only act 'in their official
capacity' (even though official comes from Latin), and whose stand-up
comics can no longer ad lib. What they'll do instead is anybody's
guess, though if they go on ad nauseam no doubt they'll get the hook –
the comedians, that is, not the civil servants, who can't be removed
from their jobs for anything as simple as malfeasance (which is French
for not doing your job).
Bournemouth's not one of the old towns of Roman Britain like Londinium
(London), Cirencester, or Verulamium (St. Albans). It dates from the
later 19th century, but like many of England's newest institutions,
the town gave itself a Latin motto, pulchritudo et salubritas, to make
it seem much older. Despite the Latin ban, there are no plans afoot to
change the Bournemouth motto to 'beauty and health,' words easier for
English and non-English alike to understand, even though motto is
Latin for 'grunt, mutter,' beauty comes from Latin, via French, and
the residents of Bournemouth are not all beautiful or healthy.
The tradition of "going native" goes back at least to the sixteenth
century, when Ralph Lever created a philosophical vocabulary for
English out of Anglo-Saxon roots instead of Latin loanwords: terms
likewitcraft, 'logic,' foreset, 'subject,' and saywhat, 'definition.'
Not to be outdone, a century later Nathaniel Fairfax, who insisted
that native words were closer to their referents than foreign
borrowings, produced a few hundred Saxon alternatives to Latinisms,
including unsproutful, 'infertile,'lightsom, 'luminescent,' and
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Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801
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