LawProse Lesson #225: Announcing a New Law
Garner’s Law of Loanwords The more arcane or technical a loanword, the more likely it is to retain a foreign plural, diacritical marks, and italics. The more common it becomes, the more likely it is to lose them. Corollary: If the loanword becomes widespread, it is most likely to lose italics first, then diacritical marks second, and a foreign plural last. Examples: Italics retained: Bon appetit! caveat emptor C’est la vie! de minimis inter alia Italics lost: ad hoc bon voyage facade forum non conveniens per se quid pro quo res judicata Diacritical retained: [Please note that because not all diacritical marks are supported in all browsers or e-mail programs—and the characters they are attached to sometimes disappear altogether—we’ve described the marks below.] a la mode (grave accent over the first “a”) blase (acute accent over the “e”) charge d’affaires (acute accent over the first “e”) decolletage (acute accent over the first “e”) protege (acute accent over each “e”) tete-a-tete (circumflex over the first “e” and third “e” and grave accent over the “a”) Diacritical and foreign plural retained: betes noires (circumflex over the first “e”) idees fixes (acute accent over the first “e”) Foreign plural retained: criteria curricula faits accomplis nouveaux riches phenomena prolegomena Foreign plural discarded (preferably): bureaus dilettantes forums sarcomas stadiums tracheas Some words in transition are seen in print both with and without diacritical marks. For example: naive (often no diaeresis over the “i”), resume (often no acute accent over the first “e” or last “e,” or both), fiance and fiancee (often no acute accent over the last “e” or penultimate “e,” respectively), and cause celebre (often no acute accent over the second “e” or grave accent over the third “e”). The dropping of diacritical characters for the most common terms may become predominant soon in part because e-mail, texting, and social-media sites such as Twitter and Facebook don’t easily support the special characters.