Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Latin is Smart People Secret Code

People who know how to use Latin should. Use of Latin makes you look Smart. However, trying to use words you don’t understand is one of the fastest ways to look Stupid. I have taken the time to compile a list of tips on common Latin terms and phrases and how they should be used. I call it:
"How to Not Look Stupid when You're Trying to Look Smart"
*Note: This is not a Latin Dictionary. It would be silly to attempt to put all the common words and phrases of Latin that we use into one list. Besides, it's already been done.

"Nurseling." A graduate from a school. The trick is when to use Alumnus vs. Alumni. Background: Latin nouns consider not only Number (English’s Singular vs. Plural), but also Gender and Case. Below is an easy-to-use chart that should clear this up for everyone.

So, “Alumnus” is singular masculine. For a girl, you should say "Alumna" pronounced "A-LUM-Nuh." "Alumni" is plural for a male or mixed group.

If it's all girls, you could look brilliant by saying "Alumnae," pronounced "A-LUM-Nay," but chances are you'll still look stupid because most listeners will only know enough about this term to think you mispronounced something.

Cum Laude:With praise.” Indicates exceptional academic standing. This one bothers me for a different reason. The correct pronunciation is this: “Coom LOUD-ay.” However, this word has become part of English vernacular, like burrito and déjà vu. For a lingual Purist, I say go ahead and pronounce this with your best Latin accent, but in the interest of just not looking Stupid while trying to look Smart, the modern vernacular holds this to be said as “Coom Lawd.”

I may as well cover the variations of this here as well:
Magna Cum LaudeWith great praise” and
Summa (“SOOM-uh” not “Some-uh”) Cum LaudeWith greatest praise.”

Etc. abbreviation for Et cetera:And the rest.” On this one, I do not follow the decline of modern English vernacular. This is pronounced "Et Set-er-ah," there is no “Eks” sound.
Also, “Etc.” is used entirely too much. There are three rules for its usage:
1. Do not use “Etc.” if you have already made a full list. Example: “Call me if you have any problems, concerns, issues, etc.” What else is there? More synonyms?
2. Do not use “Etc.” when the rest of the list is unknown. Example: “I enjoy reading, sports, astronomy, etc.” Paleozoology? You know, the Rest of the stuff I enjoy…
2. Do not use “And Etc.” This is redundant as “Et” is the Latin word for “And.” Example: “We are studying Western Europe: France, Spain, Italy, and etc.”
3. Do not use “Etc.” when referring to people. For this purpose, use Et Al.

Et Al. abbreviation for Et Alia:And Others.” For More on How Not To Look Stupid Using This One, See Previous Blog.

E.g. abbreviation for Exempli Gratia:For Example.” For More on How Not To Look Stupid Using This One, See Previous Blog.

I.e. abbreviation for Id Est:That Is.” For More on How Not To Look Stupid Using This One, See Previous Blog.

Ibid. abbreviation for Ibidem:In the same place.” Pronounced “ib-EED-em.” This is a time saver, usually seen in academic writing when an author is citing passages from the same source. It is a Smart way of saying, "I already gave you this info." To avoid looking stupid, again we must be careful not to use words we don't know the meaning of, e.g.- "I have collected some great quotes from Plato, Cicero, Ibid, and Anon."

M.O. abbreviation for Modus Operandi:Mode of Operation” Pronounced "MODE-us op-ehr-ON-dee," there is no "die" at the end, no matter what you heard on C.S.I. It refers to the particular method that characterizes a person.

Per se:In and of itself.” Pronounced "per say" but spelled "per se." The spelling is key! For More on How Not To Look Stupid Using This One, See Previous Blog.

Sic: "Thus." This means “intentionally so written;” in other words, the editor or author knew they were misspelling something or using slang or bad grammar in an otherwise formal document.

Vice Versa:The other way around.” Again, the correct pronunciation is this: “vee-kay ver-suh.” However, one will sound Stupider by trying to sound Smart. This has fallen into common usage and is typically pronounced as it is spelled. I often hear imbeciles thinking they sound Smart with strange pronunciations like “Visa Versa” or “Vee-say Ver-say.” Unfortunately, the answer is that they are still wrong.

--Shawn Butler


Anonymous said...

Hi Shawn!
Love your insightful blog and your references to the Latin language. I study latin and would like to recommed you a great free online Latin Dictionary. It is a wonderful collection with over 90.000 entries.
Keep on posting! :-)

Shawn Butler said...

Richard suggested another good source. I also already linked to these:
Latin Dictionary - CUHK
Latin Dictionary - UBC, CA
If you absolutely LOVE this stuff and would consider yourself a Latin Purist, you should read this: Speaking Latin by John Parker.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I graduated with honors and always wanted to pronounce it correctly!

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