Quid pro quo

Quid pro quo” – it has certainly made the news lately.  I suspect (or at least hope most people know it is Latin). It is just one of the many expressions and word rooted in Latin that are part of the lexicon of modern English. Here’s a modest guide to some of the major Latin words and expressions, with special attention to those that are sometimes most misunderstood or misused by modern American speakers.

  • Quid pro quo – “This for that” Signifies a favor exchanged for a favor.
  • Ad absurdum – In logic, to the point of being silly or nonsensical. Not to be confused with ab absurdo (“from the absurd”).
  • Ad hoc – Generally means “for this,” in the sense of improvised or intended only for a specific, immediate purpose. It’s usually used to refer to an ad hoc committee.
  • Ad hominem – “At the man.” An argumentum ad hominem is a logical fallacy consisting of criticizing a person when the subject of debate is the person’s ideas or argument, on the mistaken assumption that the soundness of an argument is dependent on the qualities of the proponent.
  • Ad infinitum – Enduring forever. Used to designate a property that repeats in all cases in mathematical proof. Also used in philosophical contexts to mean “repeating in all cases.”
  • Ad lib – Comes from the phrase ad libitum, meaning “toward pleasure,” “according to what pleases” or “as you wish.” Libitum comes from the past participle of libere, “to please.” In music, for example, someone “ad libbing” is improvising.
  • Ad majorem Dei gloriam – “For the greater glory of God,” the motto of the Society of Jesus, often abbreviated AMDG.
  • Ad nauseam – “To the point of disgust.” This phrase sometimes is used as a humorous alternative to ad infinitum. An argumentum ad nauseam is a logical fallacy whose erroneous proof is proffered by prolonged repetition of the argument, i. e., the argument is repeated so many times that persons are “sick of it.”
  • Addendum – An item to be added, especially as a supplement to a book. The plural is addenda.
  • Alma mater – Literally “nourishing mother,” this term is used for the university one attends or has attended.
  • Bona fide – “In good faith.” In other words, “well-intentioned.” In modern contexts, this often has connotations of “genuinely” or “sincerely.”
  • Carpe diem –  “Seize the day.” Take advantage of the present moment.
  • Circa – “Around,” “approximately” or “about,” usually used of a date.
  • Curriculum vitae – … and if you’ve just graduated, you’re more likely to have just a résumé. But with more experience, you can put together your CV. The Latin means literally “course of life.” It’s an overview of a person’s life and qualifications.
  • De facto – “By deed.” Said of something that is the actual state of affairs, in contrast to something’s legal or official standing, which is described as de jure. De facto refers to “the way things really are” rather than what is officially presented as the fact of the matter in question.
  • Deo gratias – “Thanks be to God.”
  • Et al. – Common abbreviation for et alii, which is used similarly to et cetera (“and the rest”) to denote names that, usually for the sake of space, are unenumerated/omitted.
  • Ex cathedra – “From the chair.” Cathedrals are so named not because they are the largest church but because they are the churches containing the cathedra, the bishop’s chair from which he rules and teaches. The phrase ex cathedra is applied in particular to teaching from the Bishop of Rome, i.e., the instruction that the pope gives that is to be held by all the faithful.
  • Ex post facto – “From a thing done afterward.” Said of a law with retroactive effect.
  • id est (i.e.) – “That is,” “that means,” “in other words,” “namely,” or sometimes “in this case,” depending on the context.
  • In loco parentis – “In the place of a parent.” Assuming parental or custodial responsibility and authority (e.g., schoolteachers over students); a legal term.
  • Inter alia – “Among other things.” A term used in formal extract minutes to indicate that the minute quoted has been taken from a fuller record of other matters, or when alluding to the parent group after quoting a particular example.
  • Ipso facto – “By the fact itself.” By that very fact.
  • Magnum opus – “Great work.” A person’s masterpiece.
  • Mea culpa – “My fault.” In the Confiteor, a prayer in the Catholic Mass, the faithful admit that their sins are their own responsibility. “Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault (mea maxima culpa).”
  • Non sequitur – “It does not follow.” In general, a comment which is absurd due to not making sense in its context (rather than due to being inherently nonsensical or internally inconsistent), often used in humor. As a logical fallacy, a conclusion that does not follow from a premise.
  • Nota bene, N.B.– “Mark well.”
  • Pax et bonum – “Peace and good.” A greeting often associated with the Franciscans.
  • Per diem – “By day,” or “per day.” A specific amount of money an organization allows an individual to spend per day, typically for travel expenses.
  • Per se – “Through itself.” Also “by itself” or “in itself.” Without referring to anything else, intrinsically, taken without qualifications, etc. A common example is negligence per se.
  • Persona non grata – “Person not pleasing.” An unwelcome, unwanted or undesirable person. In diplomatic contexts, a person rejected by the host government.
  • Posse comitatus – “Force of the county.” To be able to be made into part of a retinue or force. In common law, a sheriff’s right to compel people to assist law enforcement in unusual situations. In federal law, the act that prohibits US troops from being used as law enforcement on US soil unless authorized by the Constitution or a specific act of Congress.
  • Requiescat in pace (R.I.P.) – “Let him/her rest in peace,” or “may he/she rest in peace.” It’s convenient that “RIP” corresponds with the English “Rest In Peace.”
  • Semper fidelis – “Always faithful.” The motto of the U.S. Marine Corps.
  • Tempus fugit – “Time flies.”
  • Terra firma – “Solid earth,” or ground.

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