Ipsa scientia potestas est

I am quite upset about the news that Bournemouth council has banned the use of Latin words, because they are considered “elitist”. These words include 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, vice versa, via.  It seems to me that anything that indicates you may have had a good education is elitist, which I find extremely distressing.  English is full of words derived from other languages, so why should Latin phrases suddenly be excluded? Is it still ok to refer to cordon bleu cookery, then? Or savoir faire, etc? The Telegraph has an article about it, but this goes on to talk about PC language, using “homemaker” instead of “housewife” etc, which as far as I can see is an entirely different issue.

There are many things people don’t understand (did you see Prescott trying to understand what a chav was?) Every now and then the Times publishes a list of words used by younger generations, many of which I know I’m too old to have heard or to use; perhaps a bit of Latin is a way of biting back. But regardless of age, these phrases are in common use; and I don’t complain when people talk about IT and finance with phrases I can’t comprehend; instead, I ask what they mean, or go and look them up. The general ignorance of this country will only be exacerbated if we have to pander to the lowest common denominator. See Mary Beard’s comments on this – she knows what she’s talking about!


  1. It seems to be inaccurate reporting by the Telegraph, the article says more about the paper’s own fears and lack of copy; guidelines as opposed to bans on words. See: http://tinyurl.com/5mvuud and the council’s own response http://tinyurl.com/5ggfg7. However, it is typical of large organizations not to trust their employees to be able to pitch their communication at their audience and to try to remedy it through odious and officious guidelines.

    Um, it’s unnerving being an apologist for a town council. On the other hand, perhaps it would be better to ban these clichés: http://lifehacker.com/5091810/30-cliches-you-should-basically-avoid-going-forward

    Footballer’s would be left with nothing to say; a good thing too!

  2. Thanks for the comment – it’s not just about councils not trusting their employees, though – it’s about their assumption that the whole world is daft.
    Banning cliches, however, I’m all for!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s