Re: Latin vs. Germanic

Subject: Re: Latin vs. Germanic
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- AXIONET -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 2 Aug 1997 16:12:32 -0400

Barry Batorsky <bbatorsky -at- ADMIN -dot- NJ -dot- DEVRY -dot- EDU> wrote:

>Well, it's not that Germanic is gutteral, it's a longer, older >story, I think. More like what you said, "when someone wants >to sound 'schooled' they use Latin words such as 'manual.' By >contrast, a person trying to speak more commonly would choose >book.'"

While it's true that the Germanic word is usually closer to everyday
speech than the Latinate one, this should be taken as a general rule
rather than as an absolute. Sometimes, the Germanic word is much longer
(I can't think of an example for technical writing, but, in Old English,
the Latinate "disciple" is usually "leornung-cniht" - "learning youth"),
or the exact nuance demands the Latinate.

I think George Orwell's suggestion, "Never use a long word where a short
one will do" is more to the point, especially if you emphasize the last
six words. At times, the Germanic - or the shorter word - simply won't

Bruce Byfield
Freelance Technical Writer
(bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com) (604) 421-7189
Job Bank Team, STC Canada West Coast Chapter

"In a perfect world, it occurs to me now, I would write this in
blood, not ink. One cannot lie, if one writes in blood. There
is too much responsibility: and the ghosts of those one has
killed will rise up and twist the pen down true lines, change
the written word to the unwritten as the red lines fade on
the page to brown."
--Neil Gaiman, "Mr Punch"

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