et al.

Do you know what the acronym "et al." stands for? It's the kind of expression you see every day and roughly know what it means but never quite know what it comes from and what it stands for. At least, that's the case for me. So, today I decided to look it up. And Answers.com gave the following definition:
et al.
et alii (and others)

So, it's Latin. No surprise there. And it's short for et alii. Which really baffles me. Why on earth don't we write out the whole et alii? Replacing the last to i:s with a dot only saves one character. It seems totally silly to me. In fact I'm thinking of using the full form, et alii, from now on. It's simply not that difficult to write out the whole thing.

A last thought. Why do we use Latin at all? "and others" is not that difficult to write. "and so on" is in many situations preferable to "et cetera" or "etc." I guess it is an old relic from the time when English children had to study Greek and Latin. Spicing your language with a bit of Latin was perhaps a way to show off and as time passed some phrases became standard. Personally I don't mind these Latin abbreviations but I can't help feeling that the language would be simpler without them.

No comments: