Example: The graph shows the
average per capita income of the
people in our state.
Summa cum laude—Original meaning:
with highest praise or honor.
Persona non grata—Original meaning:
person not acceptable. Now means an
Pro bono—short for pro bono publico.
Original meaning: for the good of
the public. Usually refers to free legal
services offered to nonprofit organizations
or those who cannot afford to pay.
Example: The valedictorian and
salutatorian both graduated summa
Example: Susan decided to handle the
church’s legal case pro bono.
Example: After he was convicted of
terrorism, he was considered persona
non grata by the U.S. government.
Terra firma—Original meaning: solid
Sic—Original meaning: thus. This term
is often used when quoting someone who
committed an error. Putting the word sic
in brackets [sic] will show the reader
that the error was made by the original
speaker, not the writer or editor.
Example: The sea voyage was a great
adventure, but he was glad to reach
Example: According to one eyewitness, “I ain’t [sic] seen nothing like
that in all my born days.”
Vice versa—Original meaning: the
other way around. Used to indicate that
terms can be switched and still be true.
Status quo—Original meaning: the
state in which. Now refers to the current
situation or state of things.
Example: I will help you with your
chores and vice versa (meaning you
will also help me with mine).
Example: Change may be exciting,
but I prefer the status quo.
FAMILIAR LATIN EXPRESSIONS
Alea iacta est or alea jacta est: “The
die is cast.” This phrase is commonly
ascribed to Julius Caesar. He reportedly
said these words as he crossed the
River Rubicon and began his civil war.
It is sometimes used now to describe a
crossroads in life where an important,
irreversible decision is made.
Carpe diem: “Seize the day!” This
phrase expresses the Epicurean or
Hedonistic philosophy that we should
seize the pleasures or opportunities of
the day without regard for the future.
Caveat emptor: “Let the buyer beware.”
This is now an established commercial
principle: a buyer should explore a
purchase carefully before buying,
because he assumes risks at purchase.
Cogito ergo sum: “I think, therefore
I am.” This popular philosophical
saying is actually a Latin translation of
a statement by French philosopher René
Descartes in 1637.
Deus ex machina: “God from a
machine.” Today, this phrase usually
refers to an improbable plot device used
to extricate literary characters from a
seemingly impossible situation.
Ex libris: “From the books.” This
phrase is sometimes used before the
name on a bookplate at the beginning
of a volume to indicate ownership of a
60 Winter 2010/11 l Foreign Language