One of the books I’ve been reading recently is Medieval Europe: A Short History by Hollister. He uses, quite often, the abbreviation “f.” or “ff.”, for example:
The Golden Age of the Abbasids: 750 ff.
I wasn’t sure what the abbreviation meant, so I dutifully looked it up. It apparently means, simply, “and the following (pages, verses, years, etc.)”.
(The abbreviation can also stand for “fortissimo”, meaning “in a very loud manner”, but I’m fairly confident that that isn’t the meaning Hollister had in mind!)
I was just reviewing chapter 6 in my Russian coursebook, when I noticed “N.B.” in the text. I realized that I had a general idea of what the abbreviation signalled – “pay attention to this!” – but I wasn’t sure what the abbreviation actually stood for. Google to the rescue:
Nota Bene is a Latin phrase meaning “Note Well,” coming from notāre – to note. It is in the singular imperative mood, instructing one individual to note well the matter at hand. (The pluralis form is notate bene.)
In present day English, it is used to draw the attention of the reader to a certain (side) aspect or detail of the subject on hand, translating it as “pay attention” or “take notice”. It is often written in the abbreviated form: N.B.
One of the blogs I read, Copyblogger, posted an article on common mistakes made when writing. One of the things they wrote about was the use (or misuse!) of the Latin abbreviations i.e. (id est) and e.g. (exempli gratia). Here’s what they had to say about the abbreviations:
6. i.e. vs. e.g.
Ah, Latin… you’ve just gotta love it. As antiquated as they might seem, these two little Latin abbreviations are pretty handy in modern writing, but only if you use them correctly.
The Latin phrase id est means “that is,” so i.e. is a way of saying “in other words.” It’s designed to make something clearer by providing a definition or saying it in a more common way.
Copyblogger has jumped the shark, i.e., gone downhill in quality, because Brian has broken most of his New Year’s resolutions.
The Latin phrase exempli gratia means “for example”, so e.g. is used before giving specific examples that support your assertion.
Copyblogger has jumped the shark because Brian has broken most of his New Year’s resolutions, e.g., promising not to say “Web 2.0,” “linkbait,” or “jumped the shark” on the blog in 2007.
Well! I feel rather silly. I’ve been using these two abbreviations incorrectly for a long time. I thought both of them meant essentially, “for example.” Apparently I was wrong!
I don’t know where I learned it – perhaps it was ages ago in elementary school, or on one of the countless websites I’ve read over the years – but I had it in my head that the abbreviation i.e. stood for “in example.” Apparently, that’s not the case. 🙂