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 My client doesn't know it's out of date to say "Before Christ"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

Ambrose Li  Identity Verified
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CE and BCE Apr 23, 2013

To my Chinese ears, CE and BCE sound like a backtranslation into English.

So, while I know CE and BCE have taken over academia, they still sound like bad English to me :-/


neilmac
 

Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
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I know CE/BCE, I use CE/BCE, BC/AD *does* offend me (personally) Apr 23, 2013

As a non-Christian, I was educated with CE/BCE from the very beginning (well over 20 years ago), although I was told that this referred to "current era" and "before current era" (I'm not going to bother Googling this, it is what it is; I happen to like that explanation, correct or not).

I see absolutely nothing wrong with using CE/BCE (obviously), and prefer NOT to propagate BC/AD, which I feel is (or should be) antiquated.

However, I suppose in a situation like the on
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As a non-Christian, I was educated with CE/BCE from the very beginning (well over 20 years ago), although I was told that this referred to "current era" and "before current era" (I'm not going to bother Googling this, it is what it is; I happen to like that explanation, correct or not).

I see absolutely nothing wrong with using CE/BCE (obviously), and prefer NOT to propagate BC/AD, which I feel is (or should be) antiquated.

However, I suppose in a situation like the one Tom is talking about, after initial attempts to explain my *professional* reasoning to a client and provide plenty of examples, I probably wouldn't carry the fight much longer. It's one of those situations where you can't win, and you just have to tear your hair out and whine about it later to start to feel better.

As for those who say they are not offended by these terms (as well as "In God We Trust", etc.), I can say on a personal note that I AM offended, and precisely for the reasons somewhat explained by Phil - they are an affirmation of religious faith. They do not refer to "some guy named Jesus", they are a common reference to a shared divinity, which many people like myself happen not to share. The fact that they are forced by virtue of their "popularity" on people who for other reasons wouldn't use them is evident by the many protestations of those defending their use here.

Not to say that I stress myself out about them in daily life - ok, well, as someone who was originally American, I am still angry about "In God We Trust" and "Under God" (pledge), but those are slightly separate issues. I work on those in my own time.

The point is, for everyone who says "I am not offended" (implying: it's just fine), there is someone like me who *is* offended, or at the very least has a completely different preference. The plural of anecdote is not data.

In the end, when linguists and students of art and history can point to years of academic papers and projects and say "Look, these are the terms that are used", it is not actually up to us to defend any particular usage from an emotional base - not even mine.

Popular usage (whatever that ends up being defined as in the given context) will likely win out for the day, but the funny thing about popular usage is that it changes - and (agreeing with KKastenhuber), it can *be* changed, in the right circumstances.

- - -
edited for silly typos giving support to the enemy

[Edited at 2013-04-23 08:25 GMT]
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Tom in London
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I love you Janet! Apr 23, 2013

Great post, Janet but (off topic again) when did Americans start saying "likely" instead of "probably"?

Never mind. I think your post should have the last word.


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
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Dawkins would be proud... Apr 23, 2013

...of such a vehement attempt at removing religion from the equation (the equation being language).

I'm not a Christian either and nor am I bothered who uses what, I'll go on my merry way using what I prefer unless being paid to use the other.

Janet Rubin wrote:
In the end, when linguists and students of art and history can point to years of academic papers and projects and say "Look, these are the terms that are used", it is not actually up to us to defend any particular usage from an emotional base - not even mine.


Trouble is, linguists and students of art history are a rather small bunch (amongst the total population) so even if they shouted really really loudly, their protests would likely fall on mostly unreceptive, if not completely deaf ears. In addition, a true linguist would appreciate free variation in language and wouldn't attempt to prescribe one form or the other.

I'm still baffled by the lack of innovation, the lack of difference though. Both forms use the same reference point - the (possible) birth (give or take some margin of error) of a Jewish lad 2000ish years ago who a small Jewish sect believed to be the messiah (and now a lot more people also believe it - not me personally though)...

...so they are still referring to the same thing. Is that not pretty similar to fooling yourself into thinking you aren't referring to grapes as much by using "sultana" instead of "raisin"?


neilmac
 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
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CE and BCE ambiguous? Apr 23, 2013

Did it occur to whoever invented these abbreviations that people coming across them might take them to mean "Christian Era" and "Before Christian Era" - especially since the year notation is based on the birth of Jesus?

neilmac
 

Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
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Sultanas, ugh! Apr 23, 2013

Ty Kendall wrote: Is that not pretty similar to fooling yourself into thinking you aren't referring to grapes as much by using "sultana" instead of "raisin"?

As someone who has lived on a continent where "Raisin Bran" is sold and on a continent where "Sultana Bran" is sold, I can tell you with 100% certainty that sultanas are very different from raisins (and I prefer raisins, hands down!!). It makes no difference that they both derive from grapes.

I have conferred with a person educated here in Australia over the last 20 years (currently working on a PhD), and he states that CE/BCE are not only common in academia here, he also saw these used commonly in all his textbooks "in school" (prior to university) as well, and that they are absolutely understood and accepted here.

As I stated previously, it will depend on whatever popular usage is and is defined as for the given context (and I am not familiar with the context of the document(s) Tom translated). Linguists and academics may be a "small bunch" where any given person (Ty) comes from, but I grew up and was surrounded by (and am still surrounded by) university-educated folk, and so whether they specialized in art or history or achieved a PhD or not, they are all familiar with currently accepted academic practice - and they carry this into the rest of their lives. Which leads me (personally) to believe (in my personal frame of reference - again, anecdotal) that in effect they do not quite make up as "small" a "bunch" as others might believe.

BTW, Tom, educated Americans use "likely" plenty, especially when wishing to display their erudite side


 

Tom in London
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Here's the answer to all your questions Apr 23, 2013

(not for anyone who's easily offended)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkPgYbdQ1kQ


Luigi Giacomo Trani
 

Norskpro
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Interesting facts Apr 23, 2013

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Era :

"Some academics in the fields of theology, education and history have adopted CE and BCE notation, although there is some disagreement."

"More visible uses of Common Era notation have recently surfaced at major museums in the English-speaking world: The Smithsonian Institution prefers Common Era usage, though individual museums ar
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Era :

"Some academics in the fields of theology, education and history have adopted CE and BCE notation, although there is some disagreement."

"More visible uses of Common Era notation have recently surfaced at major museums in the English-speaking world: The Smithsonian Institution prefers Common Era usage, though individual museums are not required to use it."

"In the United States, the usage of the BCE/CE notation in textbooks is growing. Some publications have moved over to using it exclusively."

"In 2002, the BCE/CE notation system was introduced into the school curriculum in England and Wales. In 2011 in the UK, the BBC announced it would be using CE/BCE notation on its programmes and website, permitting usage of either notation."

"In 1938 Nazi Germany, the use of this convention was also prescribed by the National Socialist Teachers League, apparently because the Christian and Roman chronology were not "Germanic" enough.However, it was soon discovered that many German Jews had been using the convention ever since the 18th century, and they found it ironic to see "Aryans following Jewish example nearly 200 years later"."
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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
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Just to say.... Apr 23, 2013

Janet Rubin wrote:
As someone who has lived on a continent where "Raisin Bran" is sold and on a continent where "Sultana Bran" is sold, I can tell you with 100% certainty that sultanas are very different from raisins (and I prefer raisins, hands down!!). It makes no difference that they both derive from grapes.


I think linguistically it does. I respect that some people may think that using different signifiers to refer to the same signified may make a difference (especially when dealing with religious overtones), but I don't - not in this case as I don't see it as an affirmation of faith - no more than I think it is an affirmation of faith or an affirmation of a belief in Allah when a Spanish person says "Ojalá...".

I have conferred with a person educated here in Australia over the last 20 years (currently working on a PhD), and he states that CE/BCE are not only common in academia here, he also saw these used commonly in all his textbooks "in school" (prior to university) as well, and that they are absolutely understood and accepted here.


It's understood and accepted here too. Although it's only been on the national curriculum since 2002(I think) so that might take some time to trickle down.

Linguists and academics may be a "small bunch" where any given person (Ty) comes from


In the interests of accuracy, I come from England and I didn't say academics were a small bunch, but that " linguists and students of art history" are (which is fair to say as they make up a rather small fraction of the total academics in the country).


 

Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
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I agree, or, that is, I disagree, or something like that... Apr 23, 2013

Ty Kendall wrote:
Janet Rubin wrote:
It makes no difference that they both derive from grapes.


I think linguistically it does. I respect that some people may think that using different signifiers to refer to the same signified may make a difference (especially when dealing with religious overtones),

I agree - that is to say, in my variant of English, "raisins" and "sultanas" are not generally used to refer to the same thing at all ("sultanas" are generally referred to as "white" or "golden raisins" in the US - and whatever the "sultanas" are in the "Sultana Bran" over here, they do not taste or look the same as the "raisins" in the "Raisin Bran" back in the US!).

So if you are trying to say these are two names for the same thing, perhaps this was not the helpful analogy it should have been!

In a way, this little accidental two-step very much resembles the dilemma implied in the original post - cultural (and contextual) usage (and expectations) *can* differ, even when we have personal (and well-founded) opinions that we know the "correct" usage.
Ty Kendall wrote:
- but I don't - not in this case as I don't see it as an affirmation of faith

That is certainly one way of looking at it. It is simply not the way everyone looks at it, and is probably one of the reasons a valid alternative exists in the first place.

Now, honestly, I have no real bone to pick about that either way in this particular forum. Other people stated their opinions, and I stated mine.

English is a language full of synonyms, idioms, and alternatives, where truly "standard forms" are hard to come by (Oxford comma, anyone? no "which" without being preceded by a comma, anyone?). I would simply hope that when faced with (what appears to be) new information, professional translators will do their research into the "word choice" (or word order or punctuation or whatever) appropriate for their own work (based on context, intended audience, culture, intended duration of the text, potential sensitivities, etc.), and not simply ignore new knowledge in favor of their "druthers".

[Edited at 2013-04-24 08:55 GMT]


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
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I'm all for a non-religiously-bound way of marking time Apr 23, 2013

Janet Rubin wrote:
So if you are trying to say these are two names for the same thing, perhaps this was not the helpful analogy it should have been!


I was trying to highlight that despite (somewhat) superficial differences (between sultanas and raisins) they essentially refer to the same thing (a dried white grape), just like there are superficial differences between AD/BC and BCE/CE, yet they still both have the birth of Jesus as their referent.

I'd be the first to jump on the bandwagon if someone came up with a method of marking years that wasn't still anchored in Christianity (someone earlier mentioned the advent of civilisation/farming) - the linguist in me quite likes the idea of marking time beginning with the advent of writing.


 

Ambrose Li  Identity Verified
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The problem with anchoring the epoch to anything in the past Apr 23, 2013

Ty Kendall wrote:

I'd be the first to jump on the bandwagon if someone came up with a method of marking years that wasn't still anchored in Christianity (someone earlier mentioned the advent of civilisation/farming) - the linguist in me quite likes the idea of marking time beginning with the advent of writing.


is of course that any such proposal will be completely arbitrary, in all senses of the word arbitrary: Some discovery will be made in the future that shows civilization / farming / writing had started earlier (or later) than we thought. So whatever choice anyone makes will in fact correlate to just a random point in time and not anything actually meaningful.

Unless, of course, we anchored our epoch to the present. If we just declared it to be Stardate 1 next year and be done with it, that might work. Scratch that, maybe we could just adopt the Unix epoch and declare January 1, 1970 GMT to be the first day in year zero; Unix based systems (the Mac, iPhones, iPads, Android,…) are taking over the world anyway so this will probably work

I am not for any new way of counting years. Do you know things can already be a mess in some countries where a national system of year counting coexists with the Western way? Write a two-digit year and you have no idea which year it is. We don’t need to screw up this part of the world too.

For what it’s worth, AD 1 does not in fact correspond to the actual birth year of Christ. I still personally prefer BC and AD, but since it’s always been BCE and CE in Chinese, I’m not strongly opposed to the English language adopting our way of saying these very same things; I know what they actually mean.

[Edited at 2013-04-23 17:17 GMT]


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
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Case for the status quo... Apr 23, 2013

Well whatever was chosen to use as an anchor, as long as it wasn't remotely religious it would/should appease the atheist crowd.

However, I also have a feeling that no matter what was ultimately chosen, whether in the past or present, it wouldn't please everyone, and someone somewhere would be "offended" or maybe merely perturbed if we're lucky.

So if anything it's just a case for sticking with what we've got, warts and all.


 

Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
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Just to say... Apr 23, 2013

Jack Doughty wrote:
Those with traditional and "politically incorrect" views only want to be left in peace to continue in their traditional ways. It seems to me that they (or I could say "we") are under pressure from social engineers who think they can exchange attitude which have existed for millions of years, believing all other ages were wrong and only this one could possibly have got it right.

Do you think that makes me "politically incorrect"? Thank you for the compliment!


That I strongly, strongly, strongly agree, Jack.

[Edited at 2013-04-23 18:40 GMT]


 

George Hopkins
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Three cheers... Apr 24, 2013

...for Jack Doughty. He is definitely AD and up-to-date.

neilmac
 
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