Posted on November 3, 2008

Councils Ban Use of Latin Terms

BBC News, Nov. 3, 2008

A number of local councils in Britain have banned their staff from using Latin words, because they say they might confuse people.

Several local authorities have ruled that phrases like “vice versa”, “pro rata”, and even “via” should not be used, in speech or in writing.

But the ban has prompted anger among some Latin scholars.

Professor Mary Beard of Cambridge University said it was the linguistic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.

Some local councils say using Latin is elitist and discriminatory, because some people might not understand it—particularly if English is not their first language.

Bournemouth Council is among those which has discouraged Latin. It has drawn up a list of 18 Latin phrases which its staff are advised not to use, either verbally or in official correspondence.

The council denies that it places a ban on Latin words.

A council spokesman said: “We advise against using certain words, particularly when staff are writing to those whose first language may not be English.

“The advice is intended as a guide only, not a direction.”

However, the council’s Plain Language Guide lists Latin under the heading “Things To Avoid”.

Other local councils have banned “QED” and “ad hoc”, while other typical Latin terms include “bona fide”, “ad lib” and “quid pro quo”.

But the move has been welcomed by the Plain English Campaign which says some officials only use Latin to make themselves feel important.

A Campaign spokesman said the ban might stop people confusing the Latin abbreviation e.g. with the word “egg”.