Interesting Latin Phrases

last update: 17 June 2020

Wikipedia has a list of Latin phrases, and below we have just some of those that we encounter everyday, often without even noticing, namely:-

Ad hoc means 'to this', or 'for this' as an improvisation intended for a specific, immediate purpose. So it often means unplanned or spontaneous, as in an ad hoc committee or an ad hoc rule created to address one specific problem. The sense is that what has been done is not generalisable.
In some contexts
ad hoc is set against a priori meaning 'from before' as in a deduction that is based upon pure reason and, in principle, is generalisable. Ad hoc actions to deal with an emergency have the advantage of usually being quick and potentially more efficient than 'doing things by the book'. The down-side is that a short-term focus comes with risks. Important longer-term issues may be ignored, and sometime short-term solutions can have an unintended negative impact later on.
ad hoc hypothesis is an hypothesis added to a theory to save it from being falsified. The suggestion of the FitzGerald-Lorentz contraction has been held up as the very essence of an 'ad hoc hypothesis' in science.

Ad libitum, often shortened to 'ad lib', means 'at one's pleasure' or 'as you desire'. In music 'ad libitum' allows a performer or conductor to play a passage in 'free time' or omit an instrument part, or to repeat a phrase at will, or to even improvise a melodic line. In theatre it allows actors to add unscripted material, but in many TV programs there are 'ad-lib writers' to prepare texts that sound ad-libbed but aren't. Some of the most famous ad libs are:-
Here's looking at you, kid", said by Humphrey Bogart to Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca (1942)
What hump", said Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein (1974)
In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed. They had produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, too years of democracy and peace. And what did they produce? The cuckoo clock", was added by Orson Welles in The Third Man (1949)
Heeeeere's Johnny!", was added by Jack Nicholson in The Shinning (1980)
I'm king of the world" was added by Leonardo DiCaprio in the Titanic
Like tears in the rain" was ad-libbed by Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner
I need a vacation" was added by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2
I'm singing in the rain" was added by Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange
Did your parents have any children that lived?" was said by R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket
Viggo Mortensen, playing Aragorn in The Fellowship of the Ring, after kicking a helmet falls to his knees screaming. He had actually broke a toe.

Addendum means 'thing to be added', with the plural addenda. Often mentioned in terms of an addition and/or correction to an already published scientific paper or book. However, addenda can also be added to existing agreements, legal documents and contracts. Examples often quotes are visiting rights in a divorce agreement, fine details concerning a purchase or rental agreement, customised details concerning a boiler-plate commercial contract, or the inclusions of consents and waivers. What is the difference between an amendment and an addendum? Amendments are small corrections to short parts of a legal text, whereas an addendum actually adds a full documents to an already existing document. Amendments can only be made by those who have signed the original documents, whereas addenda can also be added by lawyers. An amendment is just part of the existing document, whereas an addendum is a legally binding addition or supplement to the document. In both cases, they are used in order to avoid re-writing and having to agree again to a new document. The US has introduced some major Constitutional amendments, whereas the constitution of Taiwan includes addenda that include provisions that would automatically cease to be in force if reunification occurred. The US Constitution has to-date twenty-seven amendments that are appended as codicils, i.e. additions or supplements that explain, modify or revoke something in the original document. As an example, the US Constitution does not define who can vote, so an amendment alters the content of the original document, and includes supplementary information that improves the original. An addendum would contain additional information or explanatory notes and would be added to and made a legally binding part of the existing document, once all parties agreed. As such, the terms of an addendum added to a contract would actually supersede the terms of the original contract.
Let's take a final example. A buyer purchases a property, and adds an addendum that says that the purchase is subject to obtaining certification from a loan provider or permission from a local building authority. When signed, the addendum becomes a part of the agreed terms in the contract. Let's then assume that the loan provider provides a value appraisal that is lower than the price in the contract. Or the local building authority does not provide all the requested building permits. The buyer may wish for the seller to drop their price. If a new price is agreed, then it would appear as an amendment to the contract. An addendum clarifies, and requires agreement on something that was not in the original contract, whereas an amendment just changes something that was already part of the original contract.

Alibi means 'elsewhere'. This is a legal term that indicated that a defendant was somewhere else at the time of the crime. In many ways it is one of the most powerful forms of defence since it shows that the defendant is truly innocent. Initially people under suspicion had to prove that they were alibi, or elsewhere. Later the word became a noun, and today it can mean any excuse or pretext, i.e. in 1922 an alibi was used to explain losing a game of tennis. Now it often appears as an informal verb, e.g. someone alibied me, or "there's got to be someone to alibi us".
A variety of 'alibi' have been used with more or less success. For example:-
A crash diet which produced dehydration, exhaustion, and delusions was not accepted as an alibi for shooting someone six times.
One man tried to blame his cat for downloading child pornography. The man actually dropped the alibi because he felt it was making him look stupid.
Sleepwalking was the alibi for someone who stabbed his wife 44 times. He claimed he thought he was repairing the swimming pool. The alibi was not accepted.
One woman killed her two year old daughter, but claimed the child had disappeared from her car. Her alibi was exactly the same as that shown in an episode of
Law and Order that had shown the night before. The only problem was that none of the facts in her alibi were true, i.e. she had not ran out of petrol, had not walked to a petrol station to get a refill, and had not found a 'retarded' policeman who believed her.
One man claimed that his violent and aggressive outbursts were caused by
myristicin, found in nutmeg. The alibi was not accepted.
Two different people committed two different murders, one claimed they were trying to avoid being sucked into 'the Matrix', and the other claimed that that they were in 'the Matrix' so it was not real. Both were declared unfit to stand trial.
One person was stopped with a large plastic bag full of
marijuana, which they then tried to claim as a supermarket salad. This alibi did not work.
A man originally from India was accused of stalking two different women. His alibi was that
Bollywood films clearly showed that the dogged pursuit of a woman actually worked in Indian culture. He was discharged, on the condition that he behaved himself for the next five years.
Perhaps the 'best' alibi is the 'evil twin'. If it cannot established which twin committed the crime, both must be declared innocent. In most cases the innocent twin actually has a solid alibi, but occasionally the police are caught out because they didn't know of the existence of a twin, and don't take the necessary precautions against mistaken identity.

Alter Ego means 'other I', a kind of alternative self that is different from the true or original self. It can range from a second persona (fictional character) through to a simple alias (alternative name or identity), or even be a secret identity. It's fashionable for celebrities to have an alter ego, e.g. David Bowie (the name itself was an alter ego for David Robert Jones) had Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke, and of course super-hero's all appear to have alter egos, e.g. Peter Parker for Spider-Man and Clark Kent for Superman.
Perhaps the most famous was the evil
Mr. Hyde, who was the alter ego of the good Dr. Jekyll in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
It is also true that in the past the law prohibited women from publishing, so the
Brontë sisters initially used alter egos to publish their works, Currer Bell for Charlotte, Ellis Bell for Emily, and Acton Bell for Anne (in fact Wuthering Heights was even considered a work of a "man with a depraved mind"). Author Mary Ann Evans, adopted a male alter ego or pen name, George Eliot, because she wanted to escape the lighthearted romance stereotype typically associated with women authors at that time. Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910) used some different pen name before deciding on Mark Twain, which appears to have meant a depth of two fathoms when using a sounding line on Mississippi riverboats ("by the mark twain" meant two). In 2013 Joanne Rowling (pen name J.K. Rowling) started published under the alter ego Robert Galbraith, with the first book The Cuckoo's Calling.
pen name (from the French 'nom de plume') is one form of pseudonym (as is a nickname, alias, stage names, tags, or handles), which are kind of 'part-time' names that people or groups assume for a particular job or in a particular context. Pseudonym comes from Greek, and means 'a lie or false name', whereas alias is Latin, and means 'at another time, elsewhere'. There are a lot of reasons why people take a pseudonym, i.e. privacy, better branding, avoiding confusion with other people having the same name, replacing a difficult or unattractive name with a catchy or unique one, etc. Some people have coined the term 'authornym' to describe a work should be attributed to an 'author', no matter what form it takes. But others have noted that a persona or alter ego is more than just a 'false name', in part because the different invented authors actually write with different points of view and literary styles, and in some cases they even subscribe to different political views, religious attitudes, and literary interests. Some authors would actually 'inhabit' their creations, and write to their agents in the character of their alter ego. As some experts have pointed out an alter ego is more than just a name in that it is a description (or brand) telling the reader what they can expect. When you see the name Stephen King, you know what to expect. In part King keeps his brand 'pure' by using a pen name Richard Bachman for other novels such as The Running Man, which was later made into a successful film.
Firstly, I've not found anything that gives a different legal status to an
alter ego as opposed to other forms of pseudonym.
Secondly, a living author can trademark a
pseudonym or pen name, provided that they can prove that it has 'secondary meaning' as being part of a unique brand for marketing and commerce, and that the brand is widely recognised. For example, J.K. Rowling is a trademark owned by Joanne Rowling. The one problem here is that you cannot trademark a pseudonym or pen name until it has become 'recognised' and justifies protection, so an unpublished author would have difficulties trademarking their pseudonym.
Thirdly, contracts can be signed with a
pseudonym or pen name, and it does not affect the validity of the contract, nor the obligations defined therein. What is important is the act of signing, and not the name, so a pen name provides no additional privileges nor protection. However, full disclosure also plays a part, as does the use of a legal name for payments and tax issues.
Fourthly, you cannot use the name of someone else as a
pseudonym or pen name. However, a pseudonym or pen name can be owned by someone who can then hire a stable of writers to create new works and publish them under that name (so a way to permit the 'contraction of identity'). A sub-theme of this involves the basic rights of persons. In Civil Law everyone has the right to use their personal name and no one has the right to interfere, usurp or falsely represent a personal name. This protection is extended to pen names, stage names, pseudonyms, etc. associated with a natural person, provided it is proven that the 'informal name' is connected to a specific person through actual use. That pseudonym can be used to create a company, a brand, etc. which can be authorised to enforce rights to that pseudonym.
Fifth, a
pseudonym or pen name does not offer any additional protection under the law, nor does it absolve someone from paying taxes. Be warned, different legal regimes do treat pseudonyms differently, e.g. they are not specifically protected under French law, but they are considered a 'right of personality' and can be trademarked, thus creating an intellectual property asset that can be used in commercial operations (contracts, licensing, etc.).
Sixth, a
pseudonym or pen name can be used to register the copyright of a creative work. Copyright can be registered with a real name, a pseudonym, or both. However, at least in the US, copyright is guaranteed for a period of the author's life, plus 70 years. But if published under a pseudonym the term is 95 years from publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever expires first. Someone who uses only a pseudonym may have problems proving their ownership at a later date, and the more anonymous they are, the more difficult the proof. Also copyright itself does not protect the pseudonym or pen name of the author.
The issue of copyright on
comic super-heroes and their alter egos can become very complex, and Captain Marvel is a case in point. As the Wikipedia article points out, there have been a number of Captain Marvels, which has generated a number of copyright and trademark problems. The first problem is that all super-heroes can be considered in one way or another copies of Superman, who first appeared in 1938. So it's not surprising that Superman attacked the quasi-copy Captain Marvel of Fawcett Comics for copyright infringement (DC Comics finally won their case in 1954). Then in the late 1950's Timely Comics changed their name to Marvel Comics. There were some poor copies of 'a' Captain Marvel appearing occasionally, so Marvel Comics trademarked the name, and introduced in 1967 a new Captain Marvel. Fawcett Comics had reinvented itself with Dennis the Menace comics, but given that they were barred from the super-hero business, they licensed their Captain Marvel supporting cast to DC Comics. Now DC Comics and Marvel Comics both had a Captain Marvel. DC Comics could call their character Captain Marvel, but could not put that name on covers, so they used the name Shazam. There was some litigation, and Marvel continued to publish the odd reboot to keep the character active. In 2012 DC Comics bought Captain Marvel from Fawcett, and they just renamed their Captain Marvel Shazam. Captain Marvel hit the screens in 2019 with Carol Danvers playing there title role, and Shazam! also hit the screens in 2019.
A very specific form of
alter ego also exists in the area of company law, and it concerns what has often been called the 'corporate veil'. Normally companies are treated as if they were separate legal persons. They can enter into contracts, and be sued and sue others.
Let's look at a very specific case which will help identify the exact nature of an
alter ego company. A couple, Mr. and Mrs. X, operated a chain of franchise shops. They formed under US law a S-corporation (used for US federal income tax) to operate those shops, and Mr. X was CEO and director, and Mrs. X the secretary (let's call this company 'S'). They owned 74% of the companies stock, the rest was owned by other family members. They then created a different LLC company to operate another three franchise shops, with Mr. X as CEO and Mr. and Mrs. X as sole members (let's call this company 'L'). S and L were not operated as separate entities, and they had the same place of business, the same management (including CFO). They shared the same bank account, and paid expenses across both companies without written documentation. L had no employees, and leased all its workers from S without any written agreements. Mr. X followed closely the management of the franchises and S and L, but Mr. and Mrs. X lived out of state. However Mr. X signed company checks, made payments and allocated expenses, salaries, and company assets. S was found to have been used to pay many personal expenses of Mr. and Mrs. X, and they treated the company assets as their own (e.g. home improvements, car, college expenses, and vacations were called 'shareholder meetings'). S appeared to lease properties from Mr. and Mrs. X, but not observing the necessary formalities (e.g. S did not always pay rents).
In 1998, S ceased to pay its employment tax, and in 2005 it ceased doing business. In 2007 the
IRS tried to collect unpaid employment tax ($9 million). They named L and Mr. and Mrs. X as alter egos of S, so they could collect unpaid tax on those alter egos. In 2007, L sold its assets (the three franchises), and $1.3 million was taken by the IRS and set against the unpaid taxes, and Mr. and Mrs. X also sold property and an addition $0.34 million was taken. Mr. and Mrs. X then filed a complaint to seek refund of the amounts taken, saying that non-payments of S did not extend to the assets of L and properties of Mr. and Mrs. X. So the question turned around the status of L and Mr. and Mrs. X as alter egos of S.
In court L and Mr. and Mrs. X where considered
alter egos of S. Firstly because there was a 'unity of interest and ownership' in that everything was own by the same family, and that they had commingled funds and expenditures, as well as offices and employees. Secondly, it was found that treating S independently would lead to 'an inequitable result' but involving an alter ego doctrine would not. What this meant was that profits from S that should have been used to pay its employment taxes had been 'lent' to Mr. And Mrs. X, and not repaid. In this particular case, because Mr. and Mrs. X had treated the company assets as their own, US federal common law also applied.
So what we see is that
alter ego does have a specific legal definition, in that it refers to a legal principle preventing shareholders being treated as the owners of companies in order to prevent fraudulent activities. What the court does is apply an alter ego rule to ignore the corporate status of a groups of stockholders, officers, and directors of a corporation with respect to their limited liability. Under this rule the 'corporate veil' is lifted (a kind of legal shield) and makes people personally liable for any unjustified activities. So the company is considered as the alter ego of those people when a business transaction is carried out by them.