Foreign Expressions
Indispensable to the Educated Reader

Paul V. Hartman

amicus curiae  ah-MEEK-us  KOO-ree-ay
     "friend of the court"   A legal brief prepared in anticipation of a court decision 
by a person not directly involved on either side of the case but who has an interest 
in the outcome.

carpe diem     CAR-pay  DEE-um
     "seize the day"   (From the Odes of Horace)

cogito ergo sum     CO-gih-tow  AIR-go  soom
     "I think, therefore I am."   A brilliant insight by Descartes. But did he say it 
in Latin, as above, or in French? - "Je pense, dont je suis."

comme il faut   kom-eel-FOH
     "as it should be"; proper and fitting.
     "Talking while eating is not comme il faut."

de rigueur   da-ree-GUR
     absolutely required by etiquette; mandatory

deus ex machina     DAY-oose  ex  mah-KEEN-ah
     "God from machine"  A literary device: when a plot becomes too complicated, the 
author introduces some element that no one would have anticipated. In Greek and 
Asian drama, a God literally descends (in a basket, from the ceiling) to straighten 
out a convoluted plot.

dramatis personae   DRAM-a-tis  per-SONE-eye
     the cast of characters

exeunt    EKS-ee-unt
     "they leave the stage".    One person leaving is "exit".

hoi polloi   HOY pa-LOY
     Greek for "the common people". The usual mistake is to say or write "the hoi 
polloi" but the article, "the", is already included.

in flagrante delicto     in  fla-GRONT-tay  da-LEK-toe 
     caught in the act; caught red handed (literally: "while the thing was blazing")

inter pares    inter  PAR-rays
     between equals;  also:  primus inter pares = "first among equals"

mirabile dictu      meer-RAB-a-lah   DICK-two
     astonishing or marvelous to say.    "Although soundly beaten in all nine rounds to 
date, he announced - mirabile dictu - that he would win the fight in the last round."

ne plus ultra       neh  ploos  UUL-trah
     perfect;  the very best     Literally: "not more beyond"

noblesse oblige     naw-BLAYS aw-BLEEGE
     "nobility obliges" or "rank imposes certain obligations", such obligations as to
conduct oneself honorably and courteously with those of the lower levels. A simple
example is to forego your choice of running your polo pony in order to appear at some
location to cut a ribbon.     

non sequitur        non   SEC-wa-tur
     "it does not follow"    The conclusion is not logical based on what has appeared 
so far.

quid pro quo    KWID pro KWO
     "something for something".  A person may expect an object or a courtesy in 
exchange for something given; that which the person expects to get is called the quid 
pro quo.

raison d'etre      ray-SAWN  DET-tra
     "reason for being".  In modern use, it is to describe the main purpose for 
someone's life: to be a politician, a golfer, etc.
     "Ballet was her raison d'etre."

sine qua non        SIN-nay  qua  non
     "without which, not"   Something indespensible or absolutely necessary.
     "Boating shoes are sine qua non on a sailboat."

sui generis         soo-EE  GEN-er-ous
     one of a kind; in a class by itself; unique

Latin pronunciations often differ from those adopted into English. For instance, the Latin "V" is pronounced as if it were a "W". The Latin "C" is pronounced hard as if it were a "K" while in English it is often soft as if it were an "S". If the English version is now common by frequent use, I have used the English, though my doing so will be scorned by the Latin scholars among us.

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