From The Sunday Telegraph, November 2 29008
Councils ban 'elitist' and 'discriminatory' Latin phrases
They are phrases that are repeated ad nauseam and are taken as bona fide English, but councils have now overturned the status quo by banning staff from using Latin terms, which they claim are elitist and discriminatory.
By Chris Hastings, Public Affairs Editor
02 Nov 2008
Local authorities have ordered employees to stop using the words and phrases on documents and when communicating with members of the public and to rely on wordier alternatives instead.
The ban has infuriated classical scholars who say it is diluting the world's richest language and is the "linguistic equivalent of ethnic cleansing".
Bournemouth Council, which has the Latin motto Pulchritudo et Salubritas, meaning beauty and health, has listed 19 terms it no longer considers acceptable for use. This includes bona fide, eg (exempli gratia), prima facie, ad lib or ad libitum, etc or et cetera, ie or id est, inter alia, NB or nota bene, per, per se, pro rata, quid pro quo, vis-a-vis, vice versa and even via.
Its list of more verbose alternatives, includes "for this special purpose", in place of ad hoc and "existing condition" or "state of things", instead of status quo.
In instructions to staff, the council said: "Not everyone knows Latin. Many readers do not have English as their first language so using Latin can be particularly difficult."
The details of banned words have emerged in documents obtained from councils by the Sunday Telegraph under The Freedom of Information Act.
Of other local authorities to prohibit the use of Latin, Salisbury Council has asked staff to avoid the phrases ad hoc, ergo and QED (quod erat demonstrandum), while Fife Council has also banned ad hoc as well as ex officio.
Professor Mary Beard, a professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge said: "This is absolute bonkers and the linguistic equivalent of ethnic cleansing. English is and always has been a language full of foreign words. It has never been an ethnically pure language."
Dr Peter Jones, co-founder of the charity Friends of Classics said "This sort of thing sends out the message that language is about nothing more than the communication of very basic information in the manner of a railway timetable.
"But it is about much more than that. The great strength of English is that it has a massive infusion of Latin. We have a very rich lexicon with almost two sets of words for everything.
"To try and wipe out the richness does a great disservice to the language. It demeans it. I am all for immigrants raising their sights not lowering them. Plain English and Latin phrasing are not diametrically opposed concepts."
Henry Mount the author of the bestselling book Amo, Amos, Amat and All That, a lighthearted guide to the language, said: "Latin words and phrases can often sum up thoughts and ideas more often that the alternatives which are put forward. They are tremendously useful, quicker and nicer sounding.
"They are also English words. You will find etc or et cetera in an English dictionary complete with its explanation."
However, the Plain English Campaign has congratulated the councils for introducing the bans.
Marie Clair, its spokesman, said: "If you look at the diversity of all our communities you have got people for whom English is a second language. They might mistake eg for egg and little things like that can confuse people.
"At the same time it is important to remember that the national literacy level is about 12 years old and the vast majority of people hardly ever use these terms.
"It is far better to use words people understand. Often people in power are using the words because they want to feel self important. It is not right that voters should suffer because of some official's ego."
Several councils, including Aberdeenshire, and Blackburn and Darwen, have also prohibited the use of the French phrase in lieu, while many local authorities have drawn up lists of English words, which cannot be used as they are considered politically incorrect.
Amber Valley Council, in Derbyshire, has told staff it is no longer acceptable to use language "that portrays one sex as subordinate to the other".
Staff have been instructed to say "synthetic" rather than "man made", "lay person" instead of "lay man", "people in general" in place of "man in the street", "one person show" rather than "one man show" and "ancestors" instead of "forefathers".
Broadland Council, in Norfolk, has banned "housewife" and replaced it with "homemaker" and asked staff to refer to "staffing" rather than "manning" levels.
Several councils including Blyth Valley and Weymouth have banned the phrase disabled toilet and disabled parking because they imply that the facilities themselves are disabled. They have renamed them accessible.