“It is I, Dale Gribble, man of a thousand faces. You just met face two: the deaf electrician. I couldn’t help but overhear your uncle’s bad advice. The only thing your roommates, i.e., enemy, understand is psychological warfare, i.e., dirty tricks. It worked for Dick Nixon.”—Hank Hill’s pal, explaining how to deal with bad roommates
This week, we explore the difference between the commonly misused abbreviations i.e. and e.g.
Both i.e. and e.g. come to English from Latin, which once served as the tongue of the formerly formidable Roman Empire. Over the centuries, Latin’s popularity has slowly been reduced to contemporary usage in mostly academia and misguided tattoos. However, modern English vocabulary still reflects a tremendous amount of influence from Latin—but because we no longer study Latin in school, writers often make mistakes with i.e. and e.g.
The Latin phrase id est—abbreviated as i.e.—translates to “that is” in English. Here’s an easy way to keep this straight: “i.e.” starts with “i” and essentially means “in other words.”
The abbreviation e.g. stands for the Latin phrase exempli gratia, which means “for example.” Remember this by focusing on the fact that “e.g.” starts with “e” and so does “example.”