It's bonkers to ban Latin
I was contacted last week by a Telegraph journalist, The Telegraph had uncovered, he said, the fact that local councils were banning Latin words from all official documents and in their dealings with the public more generally. This was information the paper had obtained using the Freedom of Information Act. (Hang on… do you really need the FOI Act to find out about this, or did the horrid truth emerge during a trawl for something even more sinister?)
What was my reaction? Well, at first thought, it was a bit mixed. It looked like another of those pseudo-populist gestures that councils and government are in the habit of making. They make you fill in a form 20 pages long to claim some tiny benefit you are entitled to… then they congratulate themselves for the whole document being entirely “Latin-free”. Humbug. On the other hand, there are some Latin phrases I don’t have too much affection for. I wouldn’t shed many tears for 'nil obstat', for example.
But when I discovered what the offending words were, the only conclusion was that the whole scheme was bonkers – and ignorant.
The list of words for the chop included not only ad hoc and prima facie, but eg, vice versa, ie and NB.
As I huffed to the Telegraph man, this is a dreadful example of ethnic cleansing applied to language. And, what is more, it totally misunderstands the nature of the English language which is “English’ precisely by virtue of it being very mixed indeed, as much ‘foreign’ as it is ‘native”; indeed more so. 'NB' is now as much English as it was even Latin. In fact it has much wider currency and usage in modern English than it ever did in antiquity.
What will be left, I wonder when they turn their attention to other ‘foreign’ words. No RSVP, or bungalow, rendezvous, or karaoke. The list is endless.
Meanwhile the overworked functionaries at benighted Bournemouth Council are busy thinking us clunky English equivalents for all this nasty Latin. The neat adjectival 'ad hoc' is to be replaced by “for this special purpose”. Similar time is being wasted in Fife (where 'ex officio' has bit the dust) and Salisbury.
Oh well, I expect they will have a bit of fun when they get onto 'flagrante delicto' (and they might at the same time then realise that this kind of English had its points).
You can read the article (and some other sane comments) here.