Et cetera, et cetera…

What does it mean?730032

‘Et cetera’ means ‘and so on.’ It is used to end a list that would have, in full, included many things similar to what was already mentioned.

Etymology

‘Et cetera’ is a Latin term which translates literally in English to ‘and the rest.’ It is believed to have originated in English usage in the early 15th century. It is worth noting that, although it is now abbreviated to ‘etc,’ before the twentieth century it was usually written as ‘&c.’

Improper Use

It is incorrect, but common, to use ‘et cetera’ (usually in the form of ‘etc’) simply to abruptly end a list that may otherwise be very long, or to imply that more examples could be given but the writer doesn’t actually know them! This usage of ‘et cetera’ is actually incorrect. When using Latin in modern English, it’s meaning must always be known and considered so we can be sure we are using it correctly. When it is spoken aloud it is commonly mispronounced ‘ek-setera.’

Proper Use

‘Et cetera’ should be abbreviated as ‘etc’ and only used to end a list of items or people who are very similar to the ones specified. Examples of usage in a sentence include:

‘Bob’s Restaurant sells fast food meals, hot dogs, burgers, fries etc.’
‘For dessert there are all the expected flavours of ice cream, vanilla, chocolate, etc.’

Deus ex machina…

What does it mean?Woman teaching young girl one-to-one

‘Deus ex machina’ is commonly known as a plot device in creative writing where an apparently impossible situation is suddenly resolved with an unexpected and often far-fetched solution. It’s usage tends to be looked down upon by most writers.

Etymology

The etymology of this phrase is an interesting one. ‘Deus ex machina’ is a New Latin phrase, and translates to English as ‘a god from a device,’ but is actually borrowed from the Greek language’s ‘god from a machine.’ This originates from Greek theatre, where Greek Gods were suspended over the stage during performances. They were usually written into plays to resolve the plot; hence why we use the term for such a literary device now.

Roman lyric poet Horace was famously known to advise other poets to never use this device in his famous discourse on poetics, Ars Poetica (circa 18 BC.)

Improper Use

Some writers will argue that using ‘deus ex machina’ at all is entirely improper. Writers consider it lazy, cliché or dated; but some writers use it on purpose, either to fit within a certain genre or style (i.e. superhero stories) or as parody.

Proper Use

‘Deus ex machina’ rarely makes it’s way into everyday speech or writing, but is occasionally used. Examples of use in a sentence include:

‘It’s almost if they expect ‘deus ex machina’ to save them from their self-inflicted mess.’
‘Bob used deus ex machina so his characters could escape their sticky situation.’

Latin shouldn’t make you sic…

Note: There are many usages of ‘sic’ in the written word, some more obscure than others. This article focuses only on the most common usage.

What does it mean?719078

‘Sic’ literally means “thus.” It is used very frequently in articles, and most people come across it almost daily. It is most commonly used to indicate that a quotation from a person or source has been copied to the letter, ‘warts and all,’ complete with incorrect spelling or phrasing (if any.)

Etymology

Sic first appeared in English use in the late 19th century. It comes from the Latin sic erat scriptum, which means ‘that it was written.’

Improper Use

Sic is such a common term in everyday reading and writing that you rarely see it misused or used improperly. However, it can be, and often is, mistaken for an acronym, such as ‘said in copy.’ Where this incorrect use originated from is unclear. It can also sometimes mistakenly be treated as an abbreviation, i.e. written as [sic.] No full stop should follow the word.

Proper Use

‘Sic’ should be placed in brackets (as in (sic) or [sic]) or italicised (sic). It is usually placed after a direct quote in an article, usually where the ‘quotee’ has used slang or misspelt or mispronounced a word. It can also be used after foreign languages. For example:

‘In his email to The Daily Blah, Bob said that “the book is definately [sic] red.”’
‘When telling the story of catching a would-be instrument thief, singer Ima Vokelist tells us: “I said, ‘you stay away from them [sic] guitars!’”’

The status quo…

719003What does it mean?

‘Status quo’ is a Latin term which means ‘the existing state of affairs,’ or ‘the way things are.’

Etymology

‘Status quo’ comes from the original Latin ‘statu quo’ which literally means ‘the state in which.’ Sources conflict as to when the term was first used, with some stating the 14th century and others the 19th century.

Proper Use

‘Status quo’ is sometimes incorrectly spoken or written as the ‘current status quo,’ which is incorrect. Using the term this way translates as ‘the current existing state of affairs.’ Sounds clunky, doesn’t it? ‘Status quo’ is also incorrectly used in a more informal way, when referring to minimal topics that don’t encompass the state of current affairs as a whole.

Improper Use

Although it has been adopted in the above way, ‘status quo’ should only really be used to refer to social or political affairs. Examples of use in a sentence include:

‘He consistently challenged the status quo in his writing.’
‘Despite opposition, they were desperate to maintain the status quo.’

A quasi Latin lesson…

What does it mean?

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‘Quasi’ means having a likeness, or a resemblance, to someone or something.

Etymology

The literal translation of ‘quasi’ from Latin to English is ‘as if.’ It’s first recorded use within the English language was in the late 15th century, but it didn’t come into popular everyday use until 500 years later.

Improper Use

‘Quasi’ is sometimes used to mean ‘an imitation of,’ which is incorrect.

Proper Use

‘Quasi’ should only be used when describing a resemblance, a likeness, or something that almost is, but isn’t. A few examples of use in sentences:

‘Basically, a ukulele is a quasi-guitar.’
‘His performance was a quasi-success.’

It can also be used in place of ‘sort of’ or seemingly:

‘She was quasi talented, but there were far better out there.’
‘This is a quasi Latin lesson.’

A bona fide post.

What does it mean?

Pondering woman

‘Bona fide,’ in popular modern use, means ‘true,’ ‘well intentioned’ or ‘authentic.’

Etymology

‘Bona fide’ comes from the Latin ‘bona fides,’ meaning ‘in good faith.’ It is believed to have first come into usage in modern English in the 1930s.

Improper Use

Although ‘bona fides’ is the official Latin, this version of the term can sometimes be incorrectly used in modern English in place of ‘bona fide.’ In this day and age, ‘bona fides’ is actually a term for legal or personal documents.

Proper Use

‘Bona fide’ should be used when reporting actions that are made in good faith, or something that is or has become authentic. For example:

‘He made a bona fide offer to help, but was turned down.’
‘She began as an amateur, but is now a bona fide professional.’

Magnum opus

What does it mean?

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‘Magnum opus’ is the name given to the most renowned or best work of an artist. It has also become common to use it in reference to any well-known or exceptionally good work by an artist, even if it’s not known as the best.

Etymology

Magnum opus is a Latin term meaning ‘great work.’ It is believed to have originated in the late 18th century.

Improper Use

‘Magnum opuses,’ although now generally accepted for us, is technically incorrect. The real plural of ‘magnum opus’ is actually ‘magnum opera.’

Proper Use

Magnum opus is classically only used to describe what is widely considered the best work by an artist, but as mentioned, the term has recently been used more loosely. The examples below reflect all popular usages of the term.

‘Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was his magnum opus.’
‘Bob thought it was the band’s magnum opus.’
‘What was widely considered her magnum opus was not her most popular work.’

They’ve gone ad infinitum….

What does it mean?

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The meaning of ad infinitum is ‘to infinity’ or ‘forevermore.’ Ad infinitum and beyond! (Couldn’t resist that one…)

Etymology

‘Infinitum’ in Latin literally means ‘to infinity.’ The translation from Latin is as is. An early written use of the term is in Jonathan Swift’s ‘On Poetry: A Rhapsody’ in the 17th century.

Improper Use

As ad infinitum is less commonly used in everyday speech, coming across improper use is rare. However, people may use it to express a long period of time. Pedantic though it may sound, this is incorrect; ad infinitum should only be used when referring to a literal forever. However, it sounds great when used sarcastically…

Proper Use

In its context, ad infinitum means ‘for eternity.’ It can also be abbreviated to ‘ad inf.’ Some examples:

‘The human race should continue ad infinitum.’
‘Space goes on ad infinitum.’

Verbatim

What does it mean?

Many of us recognise the Verbatim as the name of a company which produces memory and media storage products. The term act719083ually means ‘word for word,’ or ‘direct quotation.’

Etymology

Verbatim comes from Medieval Latin, with its earliest recorded use in the late 15th century. It comes from the Latin ‘verbum,’ which, in the singular, means ‘word.’ In the plural, it refers to general speech.

Improper use

‘Verbatim’ is perhaps not as common in everyday speech as some of the other Latin terms we have covered. It is more often used in a formal, scholarly or legal context, therefore improper everyday use is rare.

Proper use

It can be used in any sentence when describing a situation where speech has been copied word for word. It can also be used to describe a person who is able to copy speech or the written word perfectly. Some examples of its use would be:

‘I typed up his dictation verbatim, as requested.’
‘He copied her essay verbatim because he couldn’t write his own.’
‘He can remember and repeat everything you say verbatim. How clever!’

Stay tuned for more Latin expressions in modern use.

And vice versa…

854060What does it mean?

Vice versa means, quite literally as you’ll hear it used, ‘the other way round.’

Etymology

Vice versa is a Latin term. It loosely translates to English as ‘position to turn.’ The first recorded use of it as part of the English language was as early as 1601.

Proper Use

The proper use of ‘vice versa’ is to describe something that is ‘the other way around,’ ‘likewise,’ ‘back to front,’ etc. A few examples would be:

‘She dislikes him, and vice versa.’

‘He got her a present for her birthday, and vice versa.’

‘Elephants can’t walk like humans can, and vice versa.’

Improper Use

Vice versa is used within the English language so commonly that it is rare to hear it misused in terms of meaning. The most common improper use of vice versa is the spelling; it is often misspelt, and mispronounced, ‘visa versa.’ It’s a mistake that’s easy to make in your writing, considering how regularly we hear or read it spelt this way. Be wary of it.