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The elements

Journalists learns the Five W’s: who, what, when, where, why, to which how is frequently annexed. A competent news article should identify all those elements to be complete. The Romans had a similar mnemonic device, this hexameter line listing the elements of analysis:


That is: Who, what, where, by what means, why, how, when?

And to those, for investigative purposes, one might add the traditional question Cui bono? Who benefits?

This comes from a delightful book by Nicholas Ostler, Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin, which many of you will want to run out and lay hands on. It reminds us that we (literate people, heirs of Western civilization) were not born yesterday and that a great deal of what we know, or think we know, or ought to know, was known long before us.



Posted by John McIntyre at 12:25 PM | | Comments (3)


Or as I have on a note:

and How Much? (usually meaning $)

Age quod agis.

Why does it remind us we weren't born yesterday? Doesn't it remind us nothing new under the sun or something?

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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