Or other things

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Everyone who writes a lot and is cursed with at least a smattering of knowledge about Latin must have had the experience of feeling that they wanted to imply continuation of a list of alternatives with a short expression like etc. but meaning "or other things". I had the experience in something I was writing just this morning. What would the right expression be?

Etc., as almost everyone knows, abbreviates the Latin et cetera, so it means "and other things". Once you know that, it feels wrong to write something like The cause is typically rain, snow, or wind, etc., if you want to cover other such weather effects that you may not have thought of, as alternatives to be added to the list of disjuncts. You don't want to be taken as saying that the cause is typically both (i) either rain or snow or wind and (ii) some additional things you have not specified at all.

So, classically educated readers (and we certainly have some), what would be the right Latin phrase? I know about words like aut and vel, but my smattering of Latin is unusually smattered, and I know too little about Latin syntax to be able to say whether they were used to disjoin lists of multiple noun phrases, in addition to linking two clauses as disjuncts. And given the right phrase, what would be a suitable English abbreviation?

What I'm suggesting is that you tell me, in the comments area below. Then we can choose the best of the ideas submitted, and start using the abbreviation and increasing its frequency and popularity, with a view to it winning a few Word Of The Year competitions in 2011. Heck, if refudiate can win…



82 Comments

  1. Carin said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 8:19 am

    Vel is what you want. Aut is somewhat more strongly adversative. More relevantly, vel is the normal signal in centuries and centuries of postclassical Latin that the author (or a glossator) is introducing some possible synonyms, variants, or alternatives. My sense is that vel cetera and vel alia are pretty well established for "or the rest" and "or other things", respectively.

  2. martin said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 8:24 am

    I've picked up the habit of writing "etc" with an ampersand for the "et" (&c. – hope that shows up correctly) after seeing it typeset that way in a fancy font and suddenly realising where ampersands came from. By loose analogy, you could possibly use a slash instead (/c.) for the written form in the cases described, which might be marginally clearer to those of us not versed in Latin.

  3. Gary said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 8:35 am

    vel sim is usual, sim being an abbreviation of similia.

  4. Moacir said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 8:36 am

    I would use "inter alia," which, while not a *translation*, gets the sense pretty ok and is rather common (I've never seen vel (alia|cetera), pace Carin).

    "The cause is typically rain, wind, or snow, inter alia" sounds ok to me.

  5. Barrie England said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 8:40 am

    Perhaps, but it won't be much use if no-one understands it, as is likely to be the case.

  6. John Roth said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 9:04 am

    I've just looked at a bunch of my uses of the abbreviation, and it seems I'm doing something quite different:

    The cause is typically rain, sleet, snow, etc.

    That is, there is no conjunction at all in the series. Never noticed I was doing that until you brought it up.

  7. GeorgeW said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 9:15 am

    How about a more plebeian (and English) expression such as: Rain, snow, wind or the like.

    Or, at the bottom register: Rain, snow, wind or whatever.

  8. Jon Weinberg said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 9:27 am

    @John Roth: Your use is standard. AFAIK, standard usage of "etc.", when the writer means "and other things", is to use no conjunction other than the one subsumed into "etc." itself. GKP is doing something different, throwing in the conjunction "or", because he *means* "or", and needs a way to get it in there. That said, if I were rewriting GKP's sentence I'd want to avoid using a logically and linguistically impeccable Latin phrase none of my readers understood; I don't see much alternative there but a shift to long-winded English.

  9. Ray Girvan said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 9:34 am

    I don't know enough Latin to help with that bit, but I very much agree with GeorgeW that we're looking for an equivalent of the idiom "or the like".

  10. Mickey Mouse said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 9:35 am

    I would say (but only in a technical, formal context — otherwise it'd sound awkwardly pretentious) "vel similia" (Latin pronunciation, [wɛl sɪ.'mɪ.lɪ.a]; English pronunciation, I think, [wel sɪ'mɪlɪə] or [vel …]).

  11. MattF said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 9:47 am

    "The cause is typically precipitation, e.g., rain, snow, hail, etc."

  12. Mark Liberman said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 9:52 am

    The relevant Latin phrase would generally be abbreviated "vel sim.", as here. But as far as I (and Google Books) can tell, it never really caught on outside of philological writings. I'd go with Ray's English "or the like".

    The most unhelpful choice, I think, is the English "or sim." But my feelings about this are influenced by the several minutes that I once wasted trying to track down sim as an obscure mediterranean fish product, having come across a reference to "caviar, botargo, or sim."

  13. Chris Brew said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 9:52 am

    among others

  14. John said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 9:56 am

    Facile! "vel sim."

  15. Mickey Mouse said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 9:57 am

    @GeorgeW, Mark Liberman etc.:

    Yes, I agree, of course: "or the like", "or whatever": why not?

  16. Alon Lischinsky said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 9:59 am

    Vel similia is, as others have pointed, the choice with the best pedigree. Geeks, who have a fondness for playful archaism, have been known to use it, but I haven't encountered any straight-faced usage since I abandoned my theological interests a decade or more ago. Inter alia is far more likely to be understood, and captures your intent quite well.

  17. Dick Margulis said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 10:02 am

    Reporting from the editing trenches: if your goal is to communicate an idea to a reader (admittedly not always the writer's goal, particularly in academia), your best bet is to eliminate all Latin abbreviations, including the seemingly innocuous etc. and et al.

    I see the drafts of work by people with advanced degrees in many fields, including the humanities. Leaving aside the non-academic public, not one PhD in five can use i.e. and e.g. correctly, and a fair proportion misuse etc. (My guess is that this is a change from earlier generations, resulting from the teaching of Latin to fewer and fewer students, but I admit this may just be a recency illusion.)

    So my advice is to not worry about translating "or other things" but instead to abandon Latin abbreviations altogether and say what you mean gracefully in English.

  18. Alon Lischinsky said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 10:02 am

    It seems that the NLP community has attempted to reintroduce velc., although the fact that they feel compelled to explaint he abbreviation suggests that readers didn't find it too transparent.

  19. John Cowan said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 10:04 am

    vel sim., definitely. Not as compact as etc. nor anything like as common, but still, 30 kghits isn't nothing (the first of which is a definition).

  20. Alon Lischinsky said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 10:05 am

    @Dick Margulis: efficiently communicating an idea to a reader is highly dependent on the reader's expected reading skills and habits. Dropping etc. and et al. from academic writing, where they're so common as to be expected, would most likely be counterproductive and lead readers to wonder why is the writer being so pretentious as to so markedly deviate from the norm.

  21. greg said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 10:07 am

    I'm going to second inter alia ("among other things") as a suitable replacement in the situations such as Geoff describes — a list of "or"-ed, not "and"-ed items.

    "…rain, snow, or wind, among other things."

    On a separate note: I noticed as I was typing ""or"-ed" that the typographical parser/interpreter reads/converts " into double straight quotes (") when the " is inserted into the middle of a non-spaced string of characters: alsk"asdk instead of alsk”asdk. The parser also converts to " when the " is inside a pair of curved quotes — """ and """"""""" — but not in embedded quotes — "I said, "Hello.""

    Sorry for the aside, but it was something that jumped out at me that I just had to mention.

  22. John Baker said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 10:11 am

    Moacir – Although "inter alia" is the only one of these phrases, other than "et cetera," to have any currency in English (it's standard in legal writing), it is not typically used at the end of a list the way "et cetera" is. It would be used in a sentence such as "The cause is, inter alia, rain, snow, or wind."

  23. greg said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 10:17 am

    And upon actually posting, I discover that the preview area differentiates between curved double quotes and straight double quotes but the actual posted version does not. *sigh*

  24. Dick Margulis said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 10:18 am

    @Alon Lischinsky: You and GKP mention efficiency. I'm more interested in accuracy and did not mention efficiency. I recognize that certain provinces of the academic community have social norms requiring such markers of putative efficiency, but I see them misused so frequently that I wonder how any communication (at least of actual content) takes place at all. I think using words that neither the writer nor most of the readers understand introduces excessive noise into the channel and distorts the signal.

  25. Moacir said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 10:34 am

    @John Baker:

    Thanks for pointing that out. Now that you've mentioned it, I have to say that it sounds much more reasonable than the construction I put up earlier this afternoon.

  26. Aaron Toivo said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 10:35 am

    Pfooie! The question wasn't "what's the best way to express this", it was "how would we best do so with an Anglified abbreviation of Latin?"

    So, going with what appears to be the consensus answer and paralleling "etc.", our rendition into English should surely end up: "The cause is typically rain, snow, wind, vsm." (pronounced ['vɛlsɪm])

    But once this hits popular use, we run into trouble: confusion with "vs." meaning "versus". I predict phonological substitution of [r] for [l] (resulting in "versus" vs. "versum"), followed by some kind of semantic cross-contamination, and thus the eventual loss of our proposed addition to English.

  27. David Waugh said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 10:42 am

    I have seen the phrase "et hoc genus omne" used in this way.

  28. Mike M said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 10:51 am

    I don't actually like inter alia here, as that doesn't necessitate that the other terms are of a similar kind – 'top causes of death are cancer and heart disease, inter alia' doesnt mean, to me, that all the others are diseases – 'alien raygun attacks' would be a perfectly acceptable member of the alia.

    I think the English phrases like 'or the like,' or, most speech-idiomatically for me 'or what have you' seem preferrable to insisting on a classical phrase that likely has little to no currency, like vel sim

  29. I.D. Mercer said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 11:10 am

    In English, I vote for "or such".

  30. Mark Etherton said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 11:46 am

    @John Baker

    I don't think that it's that unusual to have inter alia at the end of a list, as in this poem about the war-time MP Somerset de Chair, whose father had been Governor of New South Wales:

    That outpost of Empire, Australia
    Produces some curious mammalia:
    The kangaroo rat
    And the blood-sucking bat
    —And Mr. De Chair, inter alia.

  31. Ben Hemmens said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 12:03 pm

    I think in this case you have to "prefer the Saxon word to the Romance", whatever the weaknesses of that Fowlerish injunction as a generalization.

  32. Amy Reynaldo said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

    Too bad "and shit" can't be shifted to "or shit" without losing familiarity.

  33. micha said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

    I wonder if there is a difference between "inter alia" and "vel sim.", or whether I'm just making it up (because, not knowing their proper use, I'm matching these to "among other things" and "or similar" respectively).

    (1) Everyone is supposed to bring pudding, inter alia.
    ->Everyone ought to bring pudding AND something else.

    (2) Everyone is supposed to bring pudding, vel sim.
    -> Everyone ought to bring pudding OR something similar.

    Anyone?

  34. Josh Treleaven said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

    My suggestion is "or etc."

    It's too bad it can't be one word; coined phrases are a lot less interesting than coined words. It seems to me the easiest words to coin are longer ones, while short words are tough to get to catch on. Don't know why that might be.

  35. Chris said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 12:40 pm

    For what it's worth, just as "et" became &, there was an abbreviation for "vel": an "l" with a diagonal cross through it, not entirely unlike the Polish ł. So "ł sim." could be fun.

  36. Mr Punch said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

    The only Latin phrase that would be widely understood, apart from the "e.g." suggestion, is "inter alia".

  37. Josh Treleaven said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

    I'd argue that "etc." is an English word now. It's not Latin anymore. So treat it like English.

    If anything, swap away the "et" part as if it were "and", not with Latin "vel" that English speakers aren't familiar with, but with an English "or", resulting in "or cetera", "orcetera", "orc." Unfortunately, I don't find any of those attractive or arrestingly obviously clear in meaning. What we need is something that is instantly recognizable as to intent, regardless of whether it lines up with Latin. Hence my previous suggestion of "or etc.", retaining "etc" for its English meaning, but adding "or" to clarify that we're not using the "and" version.

  38. Colinski said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

    Mr Punch; If you honestly believe "inter alia" would be widely understood among English speakers, you've been in academia far too long.

    I think "e.g." can convey the required message.

  39. Terry Collmann said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 1:12 pm

    I'm with Micha on "inter alia" meaning something importantly different to "vel sim". And I'm not sure why people are complaining about "vel sim" being "unfamiliar" – "blog" was unfamiliar before 1999.

  40. J. W. Brewer said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 1:16 pm

    Along the lines of preferring the Saxon to the Romance, my German is now so rusty that I have no good sense if "oder so weiter," as contrasted to "und so weiter," would convey the meaning sought, but that would give you the handy short form osw. (contrasted to usw. = etc.).

    Treating American lawyers (my own speech community) as a good sample of Anglophones who will know some reasonable degree of Latinate jargon even if they never studied even a smattering of Latin in school, I think "vel" might be just on the cusp of interpretability even in that group. "Vel non" is not unattested in U.S. legalese, but much less common than inter alia (or ad damnum, or pro hac vice, or forum non conveniens, usw.), and even among those who would recognize it, I'm not confident it's so compositionally transparent that the "vel" could be shifted to another context and recognized.

    "Orc." for "or cetera" summons up confusingly Tolkeinesque associations for me.

  41. danthelawyer said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

    Though the consensus seems to be coalescing around "vel sim" if a Latinate construction is desired, or "or the like" if not, I observe that in construction specifications, "or equivalent" is often used. It has a slightly different connotation, but might be fun to import into normal speech. Unfortunately, I don't see a good abbreviation — "orq"?

  42. tpr said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 1:40 pm

    Part of any audience will admire a writer who possesses an ability to express complex ideas in the simplest terms. Another part will at least have some deference for writing that is so complicated that the ability to understand even a part of it makes a person feel incredibly educated and self-important. Use low-frequency vocabulary items, Latin phrases and prescriptivist poppycock to appeal to this latter group. You should also try to quote obscure historical figures liberally. No substantive content is necessary.

  43. Jim said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

    A search through the Classical corpus shows 3 occurrences of vel similia as "or the like" (Cicero, De Inv. 2.152, Columella DRR 9.1.9, & Suetonius Tib. 36.1). Better still, aut similia occurs 4 times, and is used more parenthetically (Cicero, De Orat. 2.69, De Part. Orat. 7.15, Quintilian Inst. Orat. 5.11.5, & Seneca, Ad Luc. 94.28). The first 3 of these exempla occur in oratorical/stylistic discussions, and in my opinion they argue for aut similia (aut sim.) as the most elegant, Latinate equivalent for "or the like."

    "aut sim." is also prosodically closer to et cetera.

  44. GeorgeW said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 2:27 pm

    Josh Treleaven: Good point. 'Etc.' is now an English word derived from Latin but need not parallel Latin.

    As an example, I don't think any self-respecting Roman patrician would say, as we can in English, "On our trip, we experienced rain, snow, wind., etc., etc., etc." Or could they?

  45. Heidi Kent said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

    If you're trying to get something into usage, it needs first to be understood. I would argue against vel sim because for a non-Latin reader there's nothing to compare it to. vel cetera on the other hand instantly creates an analogy to et cetera, which is already known. It would be easier to infer the meaning and acquire the idiom. For that reason do not abbreviate it! If it gets into use, the abbreviation will evolve as a matter of course.

  46. Azimuth said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

    Doomed! Doomed is this quest to win "Word of the Year" with orish Latin.

    "Et cetera" is bad enough: it can make a person look a little bit ignorant, or a little bit lazy. But if you're listing disjuncts, you already don't know what the deal is. To append any kind of disjunctive continuation symbol just weakens your list and increases your apparent ignorance. In this context, pasting in a learnèd Latin expression verges on intellectual hypocrisy.

  47. John Baker said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

    Mark Atherton – You may be right that "inter alia" can be used at the end of a list, but I think that usage is at best infrequent, and I can't immediately recall having seen it used that way. (I consider that contrived exampled in limericks don't count.) In any case, "inter alia" is unsuitable for the reason pointed out by Mike M.: it is consistent with the possibility that the unnamed items are unlike that named.

  48. Kapitano said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

    I don't know how common it is outside the UK, but we use "and such" or "and such like" quite frequently, to mean "and more things of a similar kind to those already mentioned".

    And we use "or such" and "or such like" to mean "or something similar".

    At least, I hear them a lot in speech. I've only read them in the most informal of writing.

  49. Kapitano said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 4:16 pm

    There's also "and the like" and "or the like", in sentences like "The demonstration attracted anarchists, syndicalists and the like" and "Bring biscuits, cakes or the like to the picnic".

    Again, I don't see it much in writing, plus it seems much more popular with speakers over 50.

  50. Barrie England said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 4:25 pm

    Why use sodding Latin when we can perfectly well say 'among other things' and, if we have to, 'something similar' or 'the like'? Come to that, why say 'e.g.' when we can say 'for example', 'i.e.' when we can say 'that is', 'etc' when we can say 'and the rest', 'mutatis mutandis' when we can say 'with appropriate amendments' 'opus citus' when we can say 'previous reference' and all the other pretentious, snobby crap?

  51. Ken Brown said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

    Why use sodding Latin? Because its fun, or because it makes us feel good, vel. sim.

  52. Mark Etherton said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 5:11 pm

    @John Aaker

    I doubt that the use of inter alia at the end of a list is infrequent, both because of the obvious analogy with etc., and because it seems natural to put what is effectively an extension to a list at its end rather than at the beginning.

    @Barrie England

    Aren't the answers to your question a) that few people use sodding Latin when speaking, and b) both that 'e.g.' is shorter than 'for example' and 'i.e' than 'it is' and that 'e.g' and 'i.e' are widely understood when written.

  53. mollymooly said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

    I see French texts of moderate formality using trailing ellipsis equally for both conjunctive and disjunctive lists. This one-symbol-fits all solution is efficient, but I'm not sure how to pronounce it: to me it suggests gesture* rather than sound or prosody.

    *Specifically, handwaving.

  54. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 6:03 pm

    @Mark Etherton: By that argument, one could doubt that the use of "etc." at the beginning of a list would be infrequent, because of the obvious analogy with "inter alia". Logically, there's no reason "inter alia" couldn't follow a list (just as English "among others" can), but in practice, it nearly always prefaces a list (or a one-item "list") to indicate that the list is not trying to be complete.

    In addition to Mike M's comment that inter alia "doesn't necessitate that the other terms are of a similar kind", I'd add that inter alia only clarifies an utterance by negating a potential false implication; it can't convert a false utterance to a true one. For example, "He sent me a letter that said, inter alia, blah-blah-blah" still means that he sent me a letter that said blah-blah-blah; it just makes clear that the letter also said other, irrelevant things, lest I accidentally give the impression that blah-blah-blah was all it said. So to me, "The cause is typically, inter alia, rain, snow, or wind" doesn't mean "The cause is typically rain, snow, wind, or the like", but rather (perhaps) "The cause is typically rain, snow, or wind, plus other factors."

  55. I.D. Mercer said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 6:05 pm

    I'm not sure I understand the objection of Azimuth at 2:43 pm — is there supposed to be something wrong per se with putting disjuncts in a list?

  56. Melissa Dow said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 6:28 pm

    I'm surprised that nobody has referenced "The King and I", in which Deborah Kerr's character explains that et cetera means "and so on and so forth." (see also the lyrics in the song "A Puzzlement" where the King uses his newly learned phrase: "…et cetera, et cetera, and so forth" )

    It seems to me that "and so forth" is the meaning most people intend nowadays. But I'm not a linguist.

  57. Dan K said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 7:18 pm

    Not sure why you need latin for the end of the sentence and not the beginning, middle, etc.

  58. V said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 7:59 pm

    In Romanian, s.a. is used, meaning, si altele, "and other". So I propose, "a.o." -because it's such a lazy thing, of course it would catch :D

  59. groki said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

    "otc." (or, just maybe, "ortc.")

  60. MJP said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 9:27 pm

    As the hostility towards Latin is growing, I propose we divert the "Word Of The Year" quest towards Alon Lischinsky's typo "explaint" at 10:02am. Though it shows up a lot on Google for either the plain or preterite form of the verb, I propose it anew as the perfect noun for that special phenomenon:
    locutionary act, very detailed explanation of something quite minor that's gone wrong; illocutionary force, passive-aggressive complaint; perlocutionary effect, pissing everybody off.

  61. maidhc said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 9:40 pm

    So far no one has mentioned the frequent pronunciation "ek cetera".

    If I could think of a second item for my list, I could talk about "expresso, ??? ek cetera". I think it sounds better to have at least two specific items at the front.

  62. Joe Fineman said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 9:48 pm

    It seems to me rather late to fuss over the English-language meaning of "etc.". So long ago as 1927, Fowler (MEU, s.v. etc.) opined:

    "…in the contexts to which it is appropriate, it is needless Purism to restrict its sense to what the words could mean in Latin, i.e. (a) _& the rest_ as opposed to _& other things_, (b) _and_ the like as opposed to _or_ the like, (c) & other _things_ as opposed to _persons_."

    As an example of (b) he gives

    " 'Good', 'fair', 'excellent', &c., is appended to each name."

    I find that unobjectionable.

  63. Daniel Barkalow said,

    November 23, 2010 @ 2:32 am

    It's worth noting that, in the original Latin, "cetera" doesn't actually refer to things similar to the ones already listed, but the rest of the list that the audience can predict from the beginning. (I'm pretty sure I've also seen it in well-known English literature as a sort of "fade to black" taboo avoidance, where the speaker lists enough that it's clear what will follow, and then uses "etc" to cover the juicy parts, and we are meant to understand that the rest were not similar.)

    In this vein, I think it makes perfect sense to use "etc" with a disjunction; you are actually saying to treat the rest of the obvious things as being added at a metalinguistic level, as if you'd also listed them.

  64. Barrie England said,

    November 23, 2010 @ 3:22 am

    Melissa's post reminds me of the limerick which goes

    There was a young lady from Spain / Who was dreadfully sick on a train. / /Not once, but again / And again and again / And again and again and again.
    Now, the writer could simply have said, appropriately enough, 'ad nauseam', but that is an improvement only when we know the original version.

  65. Ben Hemmens said,

    November 23, 2010 @ 4:54 am

    @ JW Brewer:
    "my German is now so rusty that I have no good sense if "oder so weiter,""

    German has
    usw. = "und so weiter"
    udgl. = "und dergleichen"
    u.A. = "unter Anderem" / "unter Anderen"
    and "oder Ähnliches", for which the abbreviation oÄ is possibly a little less established than the others, but not unknown. We do have "or similar" being used in technical / official English but it probably seems a little strained for normal use, whereas "oder Ähnliches" is a perfectly natural construction in German, where any adjective can easily be made into a noun on the fly.

  66. Harold said,

    November 23, 2010 @ 6:48 am

    et alia means "and other things" et cetera means "and that kind of things"

  67. Harold said,

    November 23, 2010 @ 6:49 am

    ceteris paribus — and similar things like that.

  68. Carin said,

    November 23, 2010 @ 8:41 am

    @Harold, cetera means "the rest", "other things", and "ceteris paribus", an ablative absolute, means "other things being equal".

  69. John Cowan said,

    November 23, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

    I suggest using "goat". It's much more fun to say and will please one of our participants.

  70. David said,

    November 23, 2010 @ 1:09 pm

    I've noticed this too. When comparing a Swedish text to an English one, one will typically find a much larger use of expressions such as "bland annat" ('among other things') and "bland andra" ('among others', ie. animates), both abbreviated "bl.a.", in Swedish texts than one would find their functional equivalents in English texts. That's my hunch, anyhow. A literal translation of a typical Swedish non-fiction text always seems hedged with qualifications which wouldn't occur in English texts. (And this is NOT to be taken to be some kind of statement about conflict avoidance as a Swedish national character trait or anything of the sort.)

  71. ValeB said,

    November 23, 2010 @ 3:51 pm

    Steve Ballmer prefers "blah blah".

  72. AlexB said,

    November 23, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

    Why not say 'and others of that ilk' ?

  73. Bruce Nevin said,

    November 23, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

    Gee, wouldn't it be tidy to use the abbreviation vels. corresponding to etc. But you'd have to footnote it every time for the first century or so of use. So I'm with Fowler. "Etcetera" functions as a single lexical item (cf. apropos), indeed has been spellable that way since around 1400, and semantic shift of loans is ordinary.

  74. Hope said,

    November 23, 2010 @ 11:35 pm

    If you don't like using etc at the end of your sentence, you could just rephrase slightly and say "The cause is typically weather effects such as/like rain, snow, or wind."

    Seems simpler, more elegant and more straightforward than trying to come up with an alternative to etc that may not be widely understood.

  75. Ken Brown said,

    November 24, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

    David said: "And this is NOT to be taken to be some kind of statement about conflict avoidance as a Swedish national character trait or anything of the sort."

    You only say that because you are conditioned to pre-empt possible conflict by your Swedish upbringing.

    ;-)

  76. Bob Couttie said,

    November 25, 2010 @ 8:53 pm

    Since our readership includes few, if any dead Romans we have banned latin. So far no complaints, objectionable letters, ATBP.

  77. Nathan McCoy said,

    November 26, 2010 @ 1:32 am

    I think "vels." is the appropriate Latin analogue; were I coining a term derived from English, I'd go with "or like" (which might well drop the space over decades of use).

  78. James Wimberley said,

    November 29, 2010 @ 1:44 am

    What´s the Chaldean for ¨silly question¨?

  79. Alon Lischinsky said,

    November 29, 2010 @ 4:59 am

    @MJP: My contribution was merely a misplaced space (the "t" is from the following "the"), so credit for the brilliant portmanteau is all yours.

    @Dick Margulis:

    I recognize that certain provinces of the academic community have social norms requiring such markers of putative efficiency, but I see them misused so frequently that I wonder how any communication (at least of actual content) takes place at all. I think using words that neither the writer nor most of the readers understand introduces excessive noise into the channel and distorts the signal.

    You're misreading my comment. What I said is merely that certain kinds of writing are specifically geared to a relatively reduced set of readers who actually understand the jargon. This is largely parallel to physicists or economists "getting away" with writing equations in mathematical script rather than spelling them out, because they can safely assume their readers to be acquainted with the more concise form of expression, even if that would not be the case for a more general readership. In a paper to be published in a professional linguistics journal, my expectation is that readers will be able to tell apart "e.g." and "i.e." (although I might try to avoid these and other expressions when writing for a broader audience).

  80. Henry Honken said,

    December 1, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

    Since no one has mentioned the point that's most striking toi me about this discussion, I'll be the meany.
    I've seen dozens, and there may be hundreds, of posts on Language Log, where grammar nuts are chided for insisting language has to be logical. Isn't this a similar example?
    I also tried googling the phrase "rain, snow, or wind, etc." , a technique much used on Language Log, and got half a dozen hits excluding ones from this blog. For "or wind, etc.", I got thousands of hits.
    Personally, I don't see anything wrong with the phrase as is.

  81. onymous said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 4:37 pm

    I've noticed that Germans speaking English tend to use "or so" in this context, which sounds a little off to my ear but is readily comprehensible.

  82. Aaron Davies said,

    December 2, 2010 @ 9:30 pm

    i quite like the look of "łs". now if only i had any idea how to type it….

    btw i quite impressed myself once several years ago by, without prior planning, including "& v.v. m.m." in an instant message. latin is fun….

    @onymous: "or so" used to be limited to numerical(ish) (i'm sure lawler or gkp can provide the proper qualifier here) expressions, e.g. "fifty feet or so", but it seems (recency illusion alert!) to have been expanding its available semantic territory quite rapidly, recently.

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