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.

10 Comments:

Blogger Christopher Bigelow said...

And actually, et al. is an abbreviation for et alia and so should always have the period. No?

When someone in an interview says et cetera, I like to spell it out in their quote in my article, not use the abbreviation.

10:06 AM  
Blogger frankengirl said...

Et tu, Brute?

Please don't take that personally. I just wanted to add an "et" to the group!

I've never heard "et ux" but alas, doubt I'll find a use for it.

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You learn something new every day, and this is my something.

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Treva Buehrle said...

Et ux. I learned something new today. This is a nice term to use if you want to keep your wifes name anonymous for legal perposes.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Legal Literatus said...

Incidentally, some consider "et ux." sexist, implying possession or control of the wife.

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It IS sexist, there's no two ways about it.

What I really want to know is why is this still used? I've been doing some research for my work and find that it is still commonly used in Tax Court cases.

How can they get away with that today? I really don't understand. I thought we had advanced past the days when wives were considered possessions. It is very disappointiing

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, in et al, the reference is to the latin "alia," which means other "things."

It can also be "people," and there are (2) forms -- alii (masculine) and aliae (feminine).

But.. it has a 3d form, alia (neuter) -- for "things."

Granted, popular use of "alia" is for "people." But not strictly correct.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/et+al

[Sometimes, we're not just trying to "appear smart,".... we are smart. Don't be so annoyed by the "little things" in life. It'll make you old before your time. (grin)]

Kind Regards.

12:23 PM  
Blogger bluestocking said...

Granted, popular use of "alia" is for "people." But not strictly correct.

"alia" doesn't have a popular use. It's a word in a dead language. Dead languages aren't popular. Things that are popular are in common use. Duh.

Nor is "et al" particularly popular in its usage. It's more common to find people using "etc" when "et al" would be more correct. You know: Q: "Who you gonna see at the sock hop?" A: "Oh, you know, the crowd--Bobby, Suzy, Jenny, Tommy, etc."

You don't often hear, in popular usage, "The breakfast buffet offers bacon, eggs, pancakes, waffles, chitlins, grits, et al."

And when you do hear that, it's because some wanker has seen the phrase somewhere and wants to look smart.

Sometimes, we're not just trying to "appear smart,".... we are smart.

Sometimes "we" might be. You, however, can try to look and be smart all you want. You'll fail.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see the terms et al and et ux all the time in property ownership records. Let's say John and Jane Smith own a house. If John and Jane are married the property records may read, Smith John Etux. If John and Jane are brother and sister or business partners etc., the property record will read Smith John Etal.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Rough crowd: you literary folk! I KNEW English majors have more puck than they often reveal. . . .

Just kidding. I take language, its etiology -- pun intended -- and its precise usage very seriously. "Entitled" is NOT a fancy way to say, "titled." "Decimated" does NOT mean "destroyed". And I still wonder whether it is better to be hit by a truck full of "flammable" materials or "inflammable" materials.

I'm adding my comment just to say that I am an attorney, and I visited this site from a Google search -- there is no verb "to google" -- because I just received a notice from another attorney who used "et ux." I had never before seen it.

It is interesting that some write that it is an older import in English through legal documents, because the attorney who used "et ux" is an older guy. When I started practicing law years ago, he was already an old "pillar" of the local bar, and I took him to lunch to introduce myself. He let me take him to lunch, when he threatened me multiple times that he owns his turf, and that there is a long trail of failed attorneys who have tried to move in on it, or work opposite him. I smiled -- too arrogant to feel intimidated -- and construed it as a compliment that he would feel threatened by me.

Although I would not deduce a generalization from a sample size of 1, my experience does seem to fit with the notion that some people use the term intentionally to cause the reader to attribute an undue level of knowledge or sophistication to the writer.

Funny thing, too. Because in this case, there is no wife of the plaintiff. He is in a "registered domestic partnership" with another man. So I just might get to go to court to argue that my plaintiff's partner was not properly notified of the defendant's answer, and it must be disregarded. Of course, those of you who know Civil Procedure know already that the court will find substantial compliance. But hey; if I am already arguing five or six other things, I may as well toss in that argument too, to let him know that his use of obscure Latin phrases do not intimidate the new Internet generation.

And by the way, we seriously have to stop creating verbs. I recently overheard a conversation in which the speaker told her assistant, "That's something new I will need to discuss with him. Since we already have a meeting scheduled this afternoon on a topic that is moot, why don't we just RE-PURPOSE that meeting and discuss it then?" Repurpose. At least it's not yet "RE-OUTLOOK" the meeting or "RE-PROXIMA" it.

3:36 PM  

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