Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fun stuff: How to totally confuse your friends with archaic Latin phrases and abbreviations.

Most people know "etc." It's short for et cetera, which means "and so on," used to denote a list that continues into irrelevancies.

But why stop there? Why use plain language when you can use highfaluting abbreviations? Impress or confuse your friends with these, inter alia (among others).

et al., short for et alii, "and others". Used like etc., but when mentioning proper names of things.

i. e., id est, "that is". Use it when you would otherwise say, "in other words".

e. g., exempli gratia, idiomatically meaning "for the sake of example."

viz., videlicet, "namely."

cf., confer, "compare to" or "consult with."

q. v., quod vide, "which [you should go and] see." Used to denote a cross-reference with something else in the same work. For multiple items, you should use qq. v.

idem, "the same". In a list of things, if you're too pretentious to use "ditto," use that. If you really want to confuse people, use i. q., short for idem quod, "the same as."

ibid., ibidem, "in the same place." An archaic way of citing consecutive uses of the exact same source in a bibliographic citation. But if you really want to hose someone, use it in another context.

op cit., opere citato, "in that which was cited." Similar to the previous, but perhaps of a different section of the work.

Q. E. D., quo erat demonstrandum, "which was to be demonstrated." When making an argument where you are proving something, you say this after you prove it. A highbrow way of saying, "so there!"

ergo, "therefore."

quære, "you might ask." If David Byrne was Roman, the verses of "Once in a Lifetime" would be a lot shorter. Used to anticipate criticism of a rhetorical position. You also get bonus points if you use the "æ" ligature so your writing causes encoding drama.

ceteris paribus, "other things being equal." An assumption that controlled variables are actually controlled. A lot of economists use this, especially stupid ones.

And, of course, when accusing someone of logical fallacy, a good command of Latin phrase will give you that extra bit of authoritative mojo:

non sequitur, "it does not follow." When the conclusion of someone's argument doesn't seem related to the premises at all, or the relationship is misleading because of inappropriate context.

ad hominem, "at the person." When you call someone names or attack their character instead of addressing their argument. The "instead of" is key. Insulting your opponent in addition to tearing their bad logic apart is simply a breach of decorum, not fallacious. Of course, sometimes ad hominem is good, clean fun, especially on your own blog.

And my favorite, post hoc ergo propter hoc, "afterwards, therefore, caused by." A fallacy of correlation vs. causation. Two temporally related events may, in fact, have different causes, so you need additional evidence to establish causality.

If you have favorites of your own, let me know.