Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Grammar Nazi: Circa

Today’s word question is: Should “circa” be used only for dates. And, more specifically, only for uncertainty around a certain date, rather than a date range?

Two questions, clearly.

First, a definition:

Aside: Of COURSE it’s a preposition. But I dare you to find that on anyone’s memorized list.
I ask the first question (Should circa be used only for dates) because I saw an indie author indicate the word count of his novella at “circa 7,200 words.” And while that SOUNDED odd, sounding odd doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong.

So I turn to the Internet because I cannot be the only Grammar Nazi out there with this question.

Here’s what I’m finding:

In standard writing, use the English equivalent or write out the whole word.”

So, Mr. Indie could be right, and I could be right. Although the preferred usage is to drop it for English . . .

Here’s someone who falls into the “it sounds wrong” camp.

And there’s this, which says I’m right, in that circa is used only for dates:

Clearly, making an appeal to the Internet is going to be problematic.

On to the section question: A certain date uncertainty, or an uncertainty over a range of dates?

The “feels right” part of me wants to say if you offer a date range, you’re already expressing uncertainty, so the use of circa is redundant.

That’s what I get from these unnamed “linguists” (and on the Internet, you have to put things like that in quotes because who knows who these people are?) but even they’re not sure on everything.

It’s enough to make you feel like you drew the “You Will Doubt Yourself in Everything” card in “the game” from Gumball:

That reminds me. Watching Gumball is a LOT more fun than asking idiot questions on word use that we can’t possibly resolve without spending way too much time on them. So, until next time, here’s Grammar Nazi, signing off.

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