Grammar Hammer: Resolve to Use Latin Phrases Before the Apocalypse

Latin may be a dead language, but Latin phrases and words are still present in many languages all over the globe. Knowing a few Latin expressions will not only help you improve as a reader, but also as a writer, because Latin phrases can help us express ourselves in different and interesting ways.

Make a resolution this year to incorporate more Latin phrases into your everyday speech and writing — and maybe consider keeping your resolutions this time, because according to some conspiracy theorists and (possibly) the honorable Mayans, 2012 could be your last chance!

 The following examples were inspired by end-of-the-world predictions: 

Ad hoc: something created for a specific purpose, kind of like “impromptu”

  • When you can see the asteroid coming with your naked eye, it’s too late for an ad hoc escape plan.

Bona fide: made in good faith without fraud or deceit, kind of like “legitimate”

  • If the sky starts raining fire, you will know it was a bona fide prediction.

De facto: in fact; common in practice, but not established by law

  • Putting a paper bag on your head is the de facto attire for the apocalypse.

Et cetera: commonly abbreviated as “etc.,” meaning “unspecified additional items,” kind of like “and other things” or “and so forth”

  • Put together an end-of-the-world survival kit containing canned food, flashlights, blankets and offerings to the gods.

Et alii: commonly abbreviated as “et al,” meaning “and others” or “and the rest” to stand for a list of names

  • The skies will eventually clear and the new reptilian overlords will lay down the ground rules for you, me, John, Jane, et al.

In perpetuum: forever, perpetually

  • Hopefully the gods will be kind and it will not rain pestilence in perpetuum.

Per se: by itself or in itself (or by/in oneself or themselves), kind of like “intrinsically”

  • The Mayans weren’t pessimists per se, but their prediction sure seems depressing.

Quasi: having some resemblance (but not imitation)

  • Don’t listen to quasi prophets like Harold Camping, the Mayans are the real deal — they’re from a long time ago.

Sic: “thus” or “so,” inserted in [brackets] in printed text to indicate that an odd or questionable reading is what was actually said or printed

  • Original: December will be a moth to remember.
  • Intention: December will be a month to remember.
  • Revision: December will be a moth [sic] to remember.

Verbatim: word-for-word, in the exact words

  • We must record the reptilian overlords’ words verbatim, so as not to cause confusion like in the past.

Vice versa: with the order changed, with the relations reversed

  • Order changed: We should keep working on the bunker in my backyard, and then we can work on your bunker, or vice versa.
  • Relations reversed: Scientists hold some contempt for conspiracy theorists, and vice versa. 

Remember: Take the 2012 apocalyptic prediction cum grano salis (with a grain of salt) and have a great year regardless, because vita brevis (life is short) with or without the end of the world!

Written by Grace Lavigne, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Grammar Hammer is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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