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Help! My client doesn't know it's out of date to say "Before Christ"
מפרסם התגובה: Tom in London

Tom in London
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what - me? Apr 21, 2013

Ty Kendall wrote:

....No doubt Tom would posit....


You couldn't possibly know.

Let me posit a few controversial things that suggest we have *always* lived in a multicultural world but are only now beginning to admit it:

- Recent scholarship suggests that the chevron incisions on the columns in the Christian cathedral of Durham may be of Islamic origin (they were built just after the first Crusade to Jerusalem).

- The Christian bell-tower is derived from the Islamic minaret.

- "Catholic Spain" was Muslim until 1492, when all Jews and Muslims were forced to either convert or leave.

- Like a great many early Christian temples, the Baptistery in Florence is built on the ruins of an earlier Roman temple and in fact incorporates sculpted fragments of Roman stone into its fabric (which you can easily see by walking round the building)

- The Christian religion is itself a construction founded on the ruins of much earlier pagan beliefs; e.g. the Christmas allegory of the "birth of Christ" is in fact a way of marking the "birth of the year"- the Winter Solstice. Centuries before "the birth of Christ" this moment was marked in my own country (Ireland) at the Neolithic New Grange monument, where an underground passage is positioned to capture the the rising sun, on that day.

I hope the BCE/CE thing is a sign that we're on our way to a new culture that acknowledges these blurred edges. The fact that "early adopters" of the BCE/CE thing are academics and art historians simply marks them out as an advance guard who, in their explorations of these blurred edges, need better terminology with which to discuss them. We should know by now that nobody can claim to have an exclusive hold on "truth".

So I shall continue to prefer BCE/CE, although since "s/he who pays the piper calls the tune" I may occasionally be forced by my clients to use the more "popular" version.

(Note to moderator:

I keep trying to exclude myself from the discussion - having been guilty of starting it - but no matter how many times I click on that thing on the right to stop email tracking, it doesn't work and the emails keep on coming!)

[Edited at 2013-04-21 18:00 GMT]


 

Russell Jones  Identity Verified
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Sorry Apr 21, 2013

Tom in London wrote:

[(Note to moderator:

I keep trying to exclude myself from the discussion - having been guilty of starting it - but no matter how many times I click on that thing on the right to stop email tracking, it doesn't work and the emails keep on coming!)


Sorry Tom, that's not a moderation issue.
I guess that option doesn't work for the OP but if you want to pursue it you would need to refer it to site staff with a Support Request.


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
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Hear hear Apr 21, 2013

Jack Doughty wrote:

Tom, do you really think English visitors to Italy won't understand AD and BC? My guess is that about three quarters will never have heard of CE and BCE but virtually all of them will know AD and BC. Even if they are young enough to have been taught the new usage in school, their parents and most older people they meet will always use it so they will understand it.

Personally I'll stick to AD and BC unless I know the customer wants it otherwise.


Me too. The first time I encountered CE / BCE was in a geology text and I don't remember having come up against it since. For a general public, such as a museum-visiting target audience, I'm sticking with the tried and true unless otherwise indicated.


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
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Didn't mean to put words in your mouth Tom Apr 21, 2013

I was just trying to make the point that even though language and culture are intertwined, they don't always agree.

I'm not sure I understand why, as you claim, that BCE/CE are "better" than BC/AD? What makes them better?


 

Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
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Linguistic innovation Apr 21, 2013

Ty Kendall wrote:

I'm not sure I understand why, as you claim, that BCE/CE are "better" than BC/AD? What makes them better?


Good question. I think this must be the first time I have seen a post by Tom about a linguistic innovation where he does not condemn the innovation. Maybe the innovation has to be initiated by the "advance guard".

For what it's worth, I thought BCE/CE had pretty much replaced BC/AD, but then I read a lot of academic texts.


 

Russell Jones  Identity Verified
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Yes but .. Apr 21, 2013

S. Elizabeth wrote:

We used BCE and CE while I was doing my PhD in Art History at Yale (2003-2010) and this was simply, uncontroversially standard in academic art history. It was just what people used.

So, speaking as an art/architecture colleague of Tom's from the other side of the pond, yes, BCE and CE are the norm in academia.

Sarah


I studied art history in Cambridge and Verona (1998 - 2001) and never came across BCE and CE - just to show it wasn't (then at least) "uncontroversially standard in academic art history".


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
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Putting words into Tom's mouth Apr 21, 2013

Ty Kendall wrote:

I'm not sure I understand why, as you claim, that BCE/CE are "better" than BC/AD? What makes them better?


Can't answer for Tom, of course, but here's my answer to that:

The terms BC and AD are an explicit affirmation of Christian faith. BC doesn't say before Jesus, it says before Christ; AD means "in the year of the lord". I'm sure a lot of people don't think of them that way, but I studied a bunch of Latin, and I do know what they mean.

Using BCE/CE may still be western-centric, but has the advantages of being true: there really is a Christian/common era.

Plus, of course, it's excellent troll-bait. If my interlocutor gets upset because of my personal word choices, that helps me to develop an informed opinion of their character.


 

Tom in London
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Thanks Russell Apr 21, 2013

Russell Jones wrote:

Tom in London wrote:

[(Note to moderator:

I keep trying to exclude myself from the discussion - having been guilty of starting it - but no matter how many times I click on that thing on the right to stop email tracking, it doesn't work and the emails keep on coming!)


Sorry Tom, that's not a moderation issue.
I guess that option doesn't work for the OP but if you want to pursue it you would need to refer it to site staff with a Support Request.


Thanks Russell - some of the comments are getting a bit too personal for my liking. So I've just set my email client to trash all messages whose subject line includes "Help! My client doesn't know..."

Thanks to all for the discussion but I think it has run its course.

[Edited at 2013-04-21 23:31 GMT]


 

Tom in London
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More words in my mouth Apr 21, 2013

Ty Kendall wrote:

.... you claim that BCE/CE are "better" than BC/AD? What makes them better?



I claim no such thing.


 

Tom in London
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Enough already Apr 21, 2013

Michele Fauble wrote:

think this must be the first time I have seen a post by Tom about a linguistic innovation where he does not condemn the innovation


I'm flattered that you read all my posts so assiduously.

[Edited at 2013-04-21 23:54 GMT]


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
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Using Christian terminology Apr 22, 2013

Heinrich Pesch wrote:
I wonder if anyone could be offended by us using Christian terminology. Do you get offended if Jews or Muslims use their terminology?


I'm a Christian by religion, and to me BC and AD are not Christian terms. Why? Because they are used by Christians and non-Christians alike (although since Sunday and Easter are also used by non-Christians, I have to add "and because Christians don't attach any special significance to those terms"). And non-Christians don't mean anything special when they use them either.

What's more, these terms don't remind me of Christ whenever I see them or use them, and neither me nor my children would be in any danger of losing our religion if these terms were to be replaced by something else. I would find it odd (though not entirely incomprehensible) if some people were to think of Christ and religion every time they see these terms being used, or if some people would feel as if they're promoting Christianity or suppressing other religions by using them.

Would I be offended if Jews and Muslims use their terminology? That is a strange question in this debat, I think... unless perhaps you use the word "Christian" to simply mean "Western", or possibly to mean "non-Muslim-non-Jew". The issue in this thread is not the use of BC and AD by Christians, but by the general public.

I'm not offended or worries when I see such "Christian" elements replaced with neutral elements, although it does irk me, because it reminds me that there are people out there who find fault with every single little thing in the world.


 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
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Monday morning Apr 22, 2013

Phil Hand wrote:

The terms BC and AD are an explicit affirmation of Christian faith.



They are an implicit reference to the Christian faith but not an affirmation of that religion. If I say that today is Monday, I am not necessarily affirming selenolatry.


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
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Erm not really.... Apr 22, 2013

Tom in London wrote:

Ty Kendall wrote:

.... you claim that BCE/CE are "better" than BC/AD? What makes them better?



I claim no such thing.


You did say:

I hope the BCE/CE thing is a sign that we're on our way to a new culture that acknowledges these blurred edges. The fact that "early adopters" of the BCE/CE thing are academics and art historians simply marks them out as an advance guard who, in their explorations of these blurred edges, need better terminology with which to discuss them


I don't think that's too much of a leap on my part.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
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Bloke was called Jesus (if he existed); calling him "Christ" is a claim about his divinity Apr 22, 2013

Giles Watson wrote:

Phil Hand wrote:

The terms BC and AD are an explicit affirmation of Christian faith.



They are an implicit reference to the Christian faith but not an affirmation of that religion. If I say that today is Monday, I am not necessarily affirming selenolatry.



Similarly, you know what the word "domini" means. I don't think Jesus was a dominus.

"Today is Monday" is not a claim that today is consecrated to Selene. "Today is Sunday" is not a claim that today is consecrated to Apollo. "Today is God's day" - which some Christians would say on Sunday - does constitute a claim about God (there is one; he owns Sunday). So I wouldn't say that, either.

But much more important than this is, why do you care? I promise you, I'm wrong about many things, on a daily basis (my wife is kind enough to keep a running count); and they're mostly irrelevant to anyone else. Say I was wrong about the logic of this AD/BC thing; it's just a tiny, unimportant quirk of my speech, which certainly has many other quirks. But something about this issue makes you want to change the way I think/speak. I happily identify myself as "PC". What irritates me is that there is a media trope which loves to claim that "PC is trying to control the way we talk". Whereas in literally every conversation I've ever been in about language or PC terminology, it is the "non/anti-PC" side who seem to be much more keen to press their views on me.


 

KKastenhuber  Identity Verified
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Find external sources if you want to stick with it Apr 22, 2013

I must admit that I've never heard of BCE/CE before, but, as an atheist, I quite like the idea of it and I understand why the topic starter would deem it preferable. As to comprehensibility, I think the context of a piece of writing on art history would be enough to settle any doubts, although some (most?) people wouldn't know what the individual letters stand for.

Similarly to Phil, reading this thread I immediately thought of the discussion around gender and language use, which h
... See more
I must admit that I've never heard of BCE/CE before, but, as an atheist, I quite like the idea of it and I understand why the topic starter would deem it preferable. As to comprehensibility, I think the context of a piece of writing on art history would be enough to settle any doubts, although some (most?) people wouldn't know what the individual letters stand for.

Similarly to Phil, reading this thread I immediately thought of the discussion around gender and language use, which happens to be pretty fierce in German. I, too, used to be very much opposed to changing my old habits "for mere political correctness", but over the last couple of years, I've changed my mind. It IS possible to make people rethink e.g. traditional male vs. female role models by consciously making gender visible in language. I don't see why a similar process of raising awareness couldn't be initiated by using the more neutral and thus more respectful BCE/CE, even though it might be unfamiliar at first. IMHO, "well, we've always done it that way" or "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" isn't really a very good reason for not adopting a potentially useful innovation. It might not be "broken", but that doesn't mean it can't use some tuning, right? I for one would be more worried about it not going far enough, as texjax has pointed out here:

The politically sensitive thinkers who developed the new terminology were not so bold as to identify a new, logical, non-Christian basis for dating time such as the beginning of agriculture ten thousand years ago or the beginning of civilization five thousand years ago. Instead, they kept the Christian system but attempted to obscure its historical origin, a curiously anti-historical act.


Whatever you do, I think it's probably best to find external sources to back up your decisions. It's a controversial issue, and the last thing you need is a client who believes you're merely trying to impose your personal preference.


Phil Hand wrote:

Similarly, you know what the word "domini" means. I don't think Jesus was a dominus.

"Today is Monday" is not a claim that today is consecrated to Selene. "Today is Sunday" is not a claim that today is consecrated to Apollo. "Today is God's day" - which some Christians would say on Sunday - does constitute a claim about God (there is one; he owns Sunday). So I wouldn't say that, either. ... I happily identify myself as "PC". What irritates me is that there is a media trope which loves to claim that "PC is trying to control the way we talk". Whereas in literally every conversation I've ever been in about language or PC terminology, it is the "non/anti-PC" side who seem to be much more keen to press their views on me.


Very well said - I couldn't agree more!

[Edited at 2013-04-22 08:27 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-04-22 08:27 GMT]
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