"Per" generalized to "as we discussed"

Neal Whitman nwhitman at AMERITECH.NET
Sun Feb 9 03:32:57 UTC 2014

I did some contract work for a government agency recently, and after
receiving one more paycheck than I expected, discovered that they had
paid me for December twice. I called up my contact there to tell them of
the error; they later sent an email summing up our conversation. It
began like this:

    Per our conversation on January 27, 2014 you were issued an over
    payment for services for the month of December 2013.

I laughed, because it sounded like I had requested and then received an
overpayment: "per" to me means in this context, "in accordance with what
we decided in". My wife, though, saw nothing unusual at all, and said
she used "per" to mean "as we discussed in" all the time. The OED has
this definition:

    According to; as stated, indicated, or directed by, as per advice,
    per instructions, per invoice, per ledger, etc. Usually preceded by

The only citation I see that seems to come close to the usage I found
strange was this one:

    1771 T. Smollett /Humphry Clinker <javascript:void(0)>/ II. 25
    This pair of boots, bran new, cost me thirty shillings, as per receipt.

Does anyone here have thoughts on current usage of "(as) per"?


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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