Wednesday, March 15, 2006

et al, et cetera, et ux

I just came across a document in which the author used "et al" when he should have used "etc."

This is a mistake common among people who are trying to appear smarter and better educated than they really are, and it annoys the crap out of me. So as a public service, I'm going to explain what these three phrases mean.

et al: this means "and all the others." It's used for lists of people. You see it in bibliographies, as in "Title of Important Book (by Jane Doe, June Smith et al)," and in legal documents, as in "John Smith et al do hereby convey to Jane Doe et al the northeast quarter of the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 17, township 34, blah blah blah." It's not used for things.

et cetera, abbreviated etc: this means "and all the rest." It's used for things, both tangible and intangible.

et ux: this means "and wife." You see it in old legal documents, as in "John Smith et ux do hereby convey to John Doe et ux all of section 15 blah blah blah." (A funky related word is uxorious, which means "Dotingly or submissively fond of a wife; devotedly attached to a wife.")

Please make a note of this.