Robert James Hargrave has pointed out to Language Log that several regional councils in England are prohibiting their employees from using "elitist" Latinate phrases like "bona fide" or "vice versa" The Daily Telegraph has an article about it. I quote:
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."
I suppose one must applaud, however limply, the thought of council bureaucrats worrying about the needs of employees who are immigrants from Poland or Lithuania or Nigeria who might be perplexed by odd bits of Latin-derived jargon in memos. But this really smacks of the sort of P.C. nonsense that brings down ridicule on the heads of honest folk working to reduce prejudice.
The first four things that seem to me pathetic about the above story are:
- there is surely nothing elitist about via or vice versa or even ad hoc;
- nobody needs to care about the etymologies since they could just as well have come from other languages (and vis-a-vis actually did: it's an 18th-century borrowing from French);
- helping staff to learn the words and phrases needed for the job seems more appropriate than trying to force other staff to censor their vocabulary; and
- if you do decide to censor and simplify, there is no reason to start with renaissance Latin borrowings rather than Greek compound words like neurophysiology or photosynthesis, or for that matter all words longer than four syllables.
We need not worry too much; widespread mocking of the councils involved has already begun. I doubt very much whether the useful preposition via is doomed.