3.845 etc. (88)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Tue, 12 Dec 89 20:50:10 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 845. Tuesday, 12 Dec 1989.

(1) Date: 12 December 1989, 10:16:00 EDT (10 lines)
Subject: et cetera, et cetera, et cetera

(2) Date: Tue, 12 Dec 89 08:41:17 PLT (16 lines)
From: "Guy L. Pace" <PACE@WSUVM1>
Subject: ETC.

(3) Date: 12 December 1989 (39 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: et cetera, etc.

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 12 December 1989, 10:16:00 EDT
Subject: et cetera, et cetera, et cetera

I still use it occasionally, but couldn't we all try to get rid of a
Latin phrase that is always better replaced with an example? For a
while in the late Seventies in the States, et cetera was replaced with
blah-blah-blah, which wasn't any better. I would be interested to see
how it *is* used, but I would also just as soon *not* see it used,
because using it wastes effort. Roy Flannagan
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------20----
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 89 08:41:17 PLT
From: "Guy L. Pace" <PACE@WSUVM1>
Subject: ETC.

I avoid the use of etc. in anything I write. This aversion came from
a hard-core Navy chief journalist I worked for in the early '70s.
His comment on the term was something like: etc. means you can't
think of anything else to say. But his tone seemed to reflect
poorly on the writer's intelligence. Of course I began cutting
that term from my writing, not wanting to show my lack of intelligence.
As an editor myself, I ferociously kept that term from ever seeing
light in my newspapers or other publications.
I guess I've been brainwashed to consider etc. a crutch for poor writers,
or just a bad writing habit. It grates. It's similar to other errors
I see used heavily in journalism lately, such as ''centered around'' and
''a person that.''
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 12 December 1989
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: et cetera, etc.

Let not the English (or any other human) language be cropped of any
expressions! Lack of mindfulness in the usage of English is the problem,
not elements of the vocabulary. Besides, what can we do? My son, who is
a notorious abuser of the language -- precisely because he knows that I
value it -- yesterday declared that English is what is being spoken at
the moment, and what he hears is thus and such. It was fashionable among
us a few years back to argue precisely that, and we have discovered the
limitations of the purely descriptive approach, but it does have a
point, and a point for us in particular. We are accumulating (for
example, by means of Humanist) a substantial corpus of contemporary
English, and we now have tools with which to take the pulse of the
language as never before. The question in my mind is, what do we look
for, and what do we do with what we find?

Perhaps what we can teach (i.e., awaken) is love for the language, and
perhaps what we can sharpen is the wit that speaks through it. Many
years ago, in my first teaching assignment, I had a Nigerian student, a
math teacher who had wanted to study in N. America all his life and who
had won a Nigerian national scholarship that put him in my class. His
expectations were very high, his dedication several orders of magnitude
greater than any other student there. His English was terrible! but his
mind was so clear and strong that even his grammatical mistakes were
beautiful. One composition of his I remember to this day, about seeing
his face reflected in a pool in a dirt road while walking with his
mother -- how frightened he was, because his lore had taught him that
only the dead saw themselves. Now, this is not a story about what I did
to awaken him -- he awakened me! I think it is a story about where the
real problem with etc. lies.

Long live etc.

Yours, Willard McCarty