Re: Vice Versa (#843142)

Subject: Re: Vice Versa (#843142)
From: Bill Burns <wburns -at- MICRON -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 29 May 1996 11:15:49 -0600

29-MAY-1996 09:40:59.95
Ace writes:

>"Vice versa," according to MW's 10th Collegiate, has been firmly entrenched
>as an *English* term since 1601. You can use it. People know it. It *is*
>plain old English.

>(By the way, the word "round", as in "the other way round" comes from the
>Latin word "rotundus." The word "way" comes from the Latin "vehere.")

I don't think either of these statements really justifies the usage of *vice
versa* in all situations, and I think the assumption that the term is "plain old
English" and that "the other way around" is somehow less so ignores some pretty
clear etymological factors. (See the attached notes at the end of this posting
for more details.)

Does the word communicate its meaning to your audience? For some audiences,
yes. For others, no. I might use the term if I were writing for technical or
professional people, but I probably wouldn't use it when writing for a
production line with a high percentage of ESL employees (which is what I often

Using ironclad, black-and-white rules (such as "It's English; use it" or "It's
technical language; don't use it") doesn't take into account many of the
possible factors influencing communication. Needs assessments can be very
helpful when making such choices.

Bill Burns
Assembly Training and Documentation Supervisor

According to the OED, the origin of *way* is common teutonic. It may be a
cognate of *vehere*, but if it is derivative, then it was derived long before
the form *weg* appeared in old English. (It is also a cognate of the German
form *weg*.) *Round* also appears to have cognates in German, Dutch, French and
Latin. If it is derivative of anything, it's probably a derivative of *rund-*
(old French, according to the OED).

*Vice versa* came into the language during the early modern English period
(1600s or thereabout). To suggest that it is somehow more "English" than the
others (if that's what the post suggested) doesn't really take into account that
the other two forms came into the language far earlier.

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