A List of Latin Lingo

I never reached great heights in middle-school Latin class. In fact, I distinctly recall, after achieving my latest D test-grade, whereon, for one verb conjugation question, I scrawled “slipknot,” and, from there—much to the delight of my classmates—growled the word in my best devil voice during said test, my teacher’s telling me to clean out the wastebaskets after class, during which he asked if I were soon prepared to take it up as a career. I remember leaving generally unimpressed. 

I never became a garbageman, but I have been taking out the trash recently as regards some common contemporary Latin phrases. 

It should be noted that this is an ad hoc listing of Latin loan-phrases that endeavors not to go on ad infinitum, rather to cover specifically only some of the higher frequency contemporary phrases until the much more realistic ad nauseam

A fortiori: translated literally as “from the stronger.” This is used to refer to a preference for a stronger conclusion to an argument, for which a weaker conclusion previously prevailed.

A Posteriori: “from the latter.” Related to or derived by reasoning from known or observed facts. The Latin prefix “post” here refers to “after” observation, during which the gleaned data may be deduced.

A Priori: “from the former.” This is a posteriori’s antithesis. It is related to or derived by reasoning from self-evident propositions and theoretical deduction, or prior to empirical observation. 

But, should you really want a bona fide win in the debate, use Ad Hominem: “to the man.” This phrase denotes a marked denigration of an opponent’s character, rather than answer rationally the conundrum present or the issues raised. This is the favored contemporary model towards understanding.

To admit Mea culpa, “through my fault,” would be to admit personal fault or error, and thus to be somewhat honorable. Don’t expect to see as much of this as of the abovementioned. Here we also see the origins of the common English word culpability

An Alter Ego is a “second I,” which also a nice pun. This refers to a trusted friend, personal representative, or, as is today’s most common usage: the opposite side of a personality, which one assumes to be much like a trusted friend or personal representative. 

Caveat emptor means “buyer beware.” The onus is on the buyer. This also displays modern English’s caveat, which is often misused as “twist.”

There’s nothing to seize with Carpe diem, its literal translation being that of “pluck the day.” Enjoy the pleasures and opportunities the day brings without concern for the future, some day. Cliches completely prevent me from doing so, I retort pluckily. Don’t worry. I took care of this one for the public pro bono. You can get me later with a pint. Let’s call it a quid pro quo.

Not much for murdered bodies myself, I like using Corpus delicti or the “body of the crime” metaphorically. In either case, this phrase refers to the substantial groundwork of necessary facts required to prove that a crime has been committed. Any skilled linguists reading this whose modus operandi it is to report on the magnum opus of lesser beings, if you should not want to change your wayward modus vivendi, then consider this artifact as merely the Pons asinorum, literally “the asses’ bridge.” 

Most prospective employers require a curriculum vitae from their applicants. I’ve always found this a bit much to ask for: a “course of one’s life.” But it’s interesting how so many applicants get by with merely a short summary of one’s education, career experience, and relevant qualifications. It is, however, apparently a sine qua non, and done de jure.

Something can also be done de facto or “from that fact,” which means something akin to “there ain’t no name for it, but this is how it really goes.” Or ex post facto, meaning something done after the fact or in the aftermath of something, or “whoops.”

And here are a few of my least favorite things:

i.e.: “id est”; that is or namely 

e.g.: “exempli gratia”; for example 

q.v.: “quod vide”; which see

cf.: “conferatur”; confer; compare

etc.: “et cetera”; and so on

CV: “curriculum vitae”; boring paperwork 

I have a very special hatred in my heart for Latin abbreviations. This has less to do with their being Latin and more to do with their being abbreviations. But, since they are both, my prejudice knows no bounds. No one uses Latin correctly. And no one abbreviates correctly. Put the two together and you’ve something really quite special. 

This was either unhelpfully interesting or vice versa. But it was only pro temporeTempus Fugit, no?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s