Better Grammar Through Unicorns, Part 6: Latin

Latin may be a dead language, but there are still a few abbreviations you should know how to use properly. While they may seem like they can be used interchangeably, that’s not quite the case. Let’s see if we can figure them out once and for all.

Etc. vs. Et al.

Both of these are used at the ends of lists to indicate that the list is abbreviated, but they mean different things and I wasn’t entirely certain about the distinction. Fortunately, Grammarly is here to help. Etc. (or et cetera if you feel fancy) means “and so on,” indicating that the listed items are representatives of the sorts of things that belong to the list. Et al. (or et alii) translates as “and others” and is used with a finite list of names, most frequently when citing books with multiple authors.

  • The required reading for this course is All About Unicorns (2005) by Tennant et al. We’ll be learning about their history, social structure, language, etc.

i.e. vs. e.g.

I had no bloody clue about these, so I looked them up too. i.e. is short for id est and means “that is;” use it to give an explanation of the preceding concept. e.g. is short for exempli gratia, “for example,” so you use it to give a partial list.

  • Tomorrow is the Feast of the Unicorn, i.e., the day on which we celebrate the wonderful foods of unicornkind. Their chefs will serve up a banquet of the finest treats, e.g., glittercakes, cream horns, rainbow cookies.

That does it for now! You can catch up on previous installments at the links below, and keep an eye out for future posts if I run across more annoying mixups. Or let me know in the comments if you have any other questions!

Note: This is for personal edification and entertainment only. Don’t be a dick about people who misuse these or any other words, especially on the internet — you have no way of knowing if they have a learning disability, made a simple typo, or just got screwed by autocorrect.

(Unless they’re making these mistakes while ranting about how everyone needs to speak English in ‘merica or are otherwise being an ignorant hypocrite about language usage. Then you have my permission to tell them how very wrong they are on all levels. With gusto. Make the unicorns proud!)

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[E] Hillary

Hillary is a giant nerd and former Mathlete. She once read large swaths of "Why Evolution is True" and a geology book aloud to her infant daughter, in the hopes of a) instilling a love of science in her from a very young age and b) boring her to sleep. After escaping the wilds of Waco, Texas and spending the next decade in NYC, she currently lives in upstate New York, where she misses being able to get decent pizza and Chinese takeout delivered to her house. She lost on Jeopardy.

5 thoughts on “Better Grammar Through Unicorns, Part 6: Latin”

    1. However, an awful lot of people pronounce ‘example’ as ‘EGsample’, so you can still sort of use your mnemonic. ‘Egsample’ was how I remembered it for years, until it became a thing that just is.

      Apparently my brain likes to play with words like this. I have long since given up worrying about it.

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