Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Via dolorosa

The BBC reports: "A number of local councils in Britain have banned their staff from using Latin words, because they say they might confuse people." Phrases like "vice versa", "pro rata", and even "via" must no longer be used in speech or in writing. Mary Beard, the Cambridge University classicist, calls this "the linguistic equivalent of ethnic cleansing." Back when I was teaching, I always loathed hearing students' kneejerk response that Latin is, you guessed it, a "dead language." No, I'd tell them: English is a dead language. Here's a link to my further meditations on this eternally vexing matter.

And speaking of dead-langpo, check out my Harriet post, "Deciphering the 'mi'kmaq book of the dead.'"

And speaking further of the dead poets, is that a photo of Ezra Pound? Nope, but here's an incredibly poignant and almost never-heard recording of EP I exhumed at Harvard: click here to visit the underworld!


mgushuedc said...

The same thing has happened in our own bureaucracy. The "plain language" requirements pretty much forbid use of any Latin or Latin derived abbreviations: e.g., "e.g."

It started out in the 80's as a good idea: Write well. The passive tenses should be eliminated (by?), and so on. Et cetera. But I'm afraid like lots of goods ideas, it's become buried under organizational sediment.

But an incomprehensible mass of lingo-istic acronyms is still ok.

Anonymous said...

The image at Harriet, though simplistic in comparison, is reminiscent of the ideogrammatic work of the great--and little known here--Uruguayan artist Joaquin Torres Garcia. A poet's painter, if there ever was one:


the unreliable narrator said...

PS I like yore dead-langpo. Polyp!