Aff - able?

Jim McKenney
Thu, 20 Mar 2008 13:46:19 PDT
Jane's question about the use of cf. intrigues me. Out of curiosity, I
Googled some abbreviation sites and was very surprised to discover that many
(I think one site returned 65) meanings were cited for cf. used as an
abbreviation or as an acronym. Most were very context specific and would be
meaningless to most of us and useless in general writing. 

We don't know which word Jane's advisor was abbreviating. Jane gave the
infinitive which is a standard way to cite Latin verbs (because the
infinitive indicates the conjugation). But of course there are dozens of
forms associated with that infinitive.  Any one of them might have been the
basis of the abbreviation. It seems to me that the only way to determine its
intended meaning is to ask that person. 

Nevertheless, standard usage in other areas might provide some hints. All of
my adult life I've used cf. in an imperative sense. Two Latin words which
survive in common usage, vide and fide, are imperatives. Doggies use the
present indicative first person singular form, Fido, but they mispronounce
it to sound like fy-dough. 

Another thing to be aware of is the tradition of using the third person to
express actions which in everyday speech might be expressed in the first
person. For instance, old musical instruments sometimes bear a notation such
as “JACOBUS ME FECIT MDCCCXXIII" rather than simply 'I made this...". And if
an author wishes to indicate some action on his own part, it will often be
expressed in Latin in the third person rather than in the modern norm, the
first person. 

Another locution which I find useful is incertae sedis (literally: of
uncertain position). 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone
7, where the first flower of Ornithogalum reverchonii is open.
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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