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.’

Alter ego

842088What does it mean?

‘Alter ego’ means another side of oneself, or a second self. It can also be used to refer to a close or trusted friend.

Etymology

The meaning of ‘alter ego’ in English is ‘alternative personality.’ This Latin term was first used in English in the early 16th century (circa 1530.)

Improper use

‘Alter ego’ is a popular figure of everyday speech, so common that some people may not even be aware that it is actually a Latin term. It is rarely used incorrectly, although the use of the term to mean ‘close friend’ is often forgotten.

Proper use

Alter ego should be used to describe another persona of somebody, usually one that the person in question has created for themselves. Examples of use of the term in a sentence include:

‘Beyonce’s alter ego is Sasha Fierce.’
‘His fiercer, more confident alter ego seemed to appear when he was performing on stage.’

Or when referring to a close friend:

‘She and her alter ego were inseparable.’
‘You never saw him without his alter ego Edgar.’

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.’