Word of the Week: A Little Bit of Latin

9:30 AM

Starting TODAY, I'm following the suggestion of my dear friend Katie to start a Word of the Week. Since apparently none of you are interested in deep theology (as evidenced by the voluminous silence on Saturday's post which only touched it with a ten foot pole), I turn to my second comfort - etymology. Do try to stay interested.


To begin with, any reputable study of English must begin with the understanding that we will most often not be interacting with English - i.e., we'll be talking about other languages (e.g., Greek, Arabic, French) but mostly we will face Latin. As you scholars know, the English language came principally from Germanic and Latinate roots. Eighty-three percent of our common words come from Germanic roots; yet most of our Advanced, Scientific, Enlightened words come from Greek and Latin. And we'll be discussing Advanced, Scientific, Enlightened words, will we not? So it's important to know Latin.

Starting off our Advanced, Scientific and Enlightened words, our Word of the Week is - oh, did I say "word" of the week? For I really meant two, which is technically four. Well, in any case, we'll be studying the abbreviations e.g. and i.e. I would do a disservice to my fellow grammar geeks if I said these were a pair, for they're so often mixed up that even I thought them synonyms not too long ago. However, because they're so mixed up, it's only proper and suitable to unmix them and set them straight.

E.g. comes from the Latin exempli gratia and it really has nothing to do with i.e., that is, id est. You see, exempli gratia does not mean "that is," while id est does; and id est couldn't possibly mean "for example" - like, for example, exempli gratia. Get my meaning?

If you don't, let me give an example, i.e., the following: "I like all sorts of ice cream (e.g., triple banana fudge twist) but there's a certain flavor I cannot stand (i.e., blue bubble gum)." I.e., "I like all sorts of ice cream (for example, triple banana fudge twist) but there's a certain flavor I cannot stand, that is, blue bubble gum."

Now I have a feeling your head's hurting, your principle question being, Who would like blue bubble gum, anyway? Let's recap simply.

E.g.: Latin for for example. Do not confuse with
I.e.: Latin for that is or in other words. Definitely do not confuse with
Blue Bubble Gum: English for an ice cream flavor that does not exist.

One thing to keep in mind when using e.g. is that it is never intended to indicate an exhaustive list. Don't say, "I like lots of ice cream flavors (e.g., Hannah Banana Split, Somewhere Over the Rainbow Sherbet, Hot Chocolate Chip, etc.)." Remember, it's not i.e. - it's just e.g. That is to say, it's not "that is" - it's just for example.

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7 impressions

  1. That thing flying around the room? Yeah, just flew over my head...




  2. You're funny. Just stick with the bold parts. Those are the only ones that make sense.

  3. Hehe, fun stuff Bayleaf!! Etymology is so much fun isn't it?! Love it!
    Oh, and by the way - blue bubblegum *IS* a flavor... we were at this big McDonald's last month (The one in Oklahoma, that's built over the highway) and there was a little ice cream stand in there, and there was a blue bubblegum flavor. Mom got a sample just out of curiosity, and said it was nasty. :D

    Oh, and I take offense to your opening line there... I'm keenly interested in Theology thank'ee very much... ;) I was just really busy last weekend, and didn't have time to type out a nice long comment.



  4. Wow! I actually get it! it's interesting, the latin word for "is" ("est") is the same in French(in the "he/she/it form). I guess that only makes sense ;)

  5. Elissa, I'm pretty sure the local ice cream shop sells blue bubble gum ice cream too. In fact, I'm sure almost ANY flavor one could think up has been created. Like pickle. Pistachio. Jalepeno. That sort.

    You're my kind of girl - theology and etymology. :o)

    Lindsey, ah, yes, I should have consulted my French Friend. But Latin, Italian and French are all based on the same roots. Funny...Latin is much easier to pronounce than French.

  6. Now I'm excited to learn the next "word of the week"!


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