or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


A Slate article--and what did I say yesterday about Slate articles?--on masculinity and men's magazines contains the following sentence:

The idea, apparently, is to rebuild the American Man, vertebrae by vertebrae.

"Vertebrae" is plural. "Vertebra" is the desired-in-context singular.

People who don't know anything about Latin plurals probably shouldn't be using them.


You know who else shouldn't be using Latin? Doctors.

I mean, they can use it among themselves. It has a long tradition, and they understand it. But I think it's time to retire it when dealing with the public at large, because they're unlikely to understand that "q.i.d." on a medicine label means "quater in die", or "four times per day".

Oh, you might say, but medicine-bottle labels don't use those terms any more. No?

Hilarious! "1 suppository per rectum"! As if there were people who had more than one!

But of course "per" is Latin for (in this context) "through", and therefore means "via". It ended up on FailBlog because it seems like a violation of natural English usage, when it fact it's perfectly correct Latin, and medical, usage. But it's still a fail, because it seems wrong, and a medicine-bottle label is surely the very last place you would want there to appear to be an error.


A couple of weeks ago I was complaining about the misuse of Middle English, and a commenter took me to task (mildly) for insisting that the rules of a disused language be followed when approximating that language in modern times. But it can be done, and done correctly, to hilarious effect, as the invaluable Kate Beaton shows us:

"Someone doth" is correct, and we know this because the unfailing mnemonic is that the pronoun for "someone" could be "he", and as I noted previously, "he" begins with "h-" and "doth" ends with it (just as "thou" and "dost" are paired).

See? That's how it's done. Grammatically correct and still funny.


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