Sarah Palin's per diem expenses expose another useless Latinism in English

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

If most signs in countries of the world had something like this, per diem would be a useful and relevant term.

Here's my previous post on dead Latinisms in English, how people don't understand them as well as they used to and what should be done about them. In short:
  • Change them to other words (constitution to groundlaw, de jure to by law, etc.), or
  • Restore Latin language education.
Today the Washington Post published a story on John McCain's running mate Sarah Palin's expenses she charged to the state of Alaska while at home:
ANCHORAGE, Sept. 8 -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a "per diem" allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.


The popular governor collected the per diem allowance from April 22, four days after the birth of her fifth child, until June 3, when she flew to Juneau for two days. Palin moved her family to the capital during the legislative session last year, but prefers to stay in Wasilla and drive 45 miles to Anchorage to a state office building where she conducts most of her business, aides have said.
Ooh, per diem. What does that mean? Why, it means per day. So why not just call it a per day, or a daily, or a daily expense or something along those lines? Diem is the accusative of dies for day, so in order to talk about weekly or monthly expenses you have to know a little bit about Latin. Per week would be per hebdomadem, and per month would be per mensem. I love Latin, but without the basic Latin education to understand cases, there's no real use in keeping a term like per diem in the English language. Having a single term but not knowing the grammar of the language it comes from is like the word 스트레칭 (stretching) in Korean, which uses the one word (the gerund), but nothing related to it (stretch, stretchy, stretchable, unstretchable, etc.).

Oh and by the way, I finished a long post yesterday on why independent and undecided voters should vote for Barack Obama this year as opposed to John McCain. Perhaps it was a bit too long; I think I'm going to cut it down in size and post it as a new entry as a condensed version, which I hope will get some more attention. I suppose asking people who have never been to the blog to read fourteen screens worth of content is a bit too much.


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