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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Criminal Sentence 380: Latin Lesson

From a column in the newspaper (readers ask odd questions):

"Why do we use the a.m.-p.m. system for telling time? The 24-hour day (i.e. 1300 for 1 p.m.) that the military uses seems so much simpler."

For some reason we use Latin abbreviations in English. "Etc." is a common one. Two that often get confused are "i.e." and "e.g."

"i.e." translates as "that is," meaning you are restating something with more specific information. For example, I might say, "I have studied three languages; i.e., Spanish, French and Italian." In this example, I state that I studied three languages, and then I specifically state which ones.

"e.g." translates as "for example," meaning that you are giving an incomplete list. For example, I might say, "I have studied three languages;e.g., Spanish and Italian."As you can see, this is an incomplete list.

Have you seen the error yet?


Westley said...

It looks to me like the original newspaper is equating "24-hour day" and "1300 for 1 p.m."

Using i.e. requires that the second phrase fit in the place of the first phrase...and still make sense.

Your example of three languages could be restated as "I have studied Spanish, French and Italian," Correctly replacing the second phrase "Spanish, French and Italian" with the first phrase "three languages."


Anonymous said...

Besides the spaces that were missing, I'm not sure I see the error...:-(

The Sentence Sleuth said...

The wrong Latin abbreviation was used. It should be e.g. because the writer is giving the example of 1 p.m.

e.g., not i.e.