Friday, March 4, 2011

Quid quo pro, fait accompli, Alibi

I came across these non-English words used in different stories in The Times of India of March 5, 2011 in its Pune edition. I wonder if its lay readers will understand meanings of these words. I checked the and here is what it says:
(In a story headlined PM accepts responsibility for CVC appointment. Mr Yashwant Sinha said ‘The only authority he claimed to have was moral authority. Now that is gone, too. He has no alibis, and no place to go.’)
I remember my senior editors years go used to insist that alibi should be used only when you want to mean ‘aplea of having been elsewhere.’
I today came across the following Usage Note at The
Alibi in Latin is an adverb meaning ‘in or at another place.’ Its earliest English uses, in the 18th century, are in legal contexts, both as an adverb and as a noun meaning ‘a plea of having been elsewhere.’ The extended noun senses ‘excuse’ and ‘person used as one's excuse’ developed in the 20th century in the United States and occur in all but the most formal writing. As a verb alibi occurs mainly in informal use.
Should the reporter who wrote the story have used a word easier to understand for a lay reader: now he has no excuse.. (instead of alibi, even if Mr Sinha used ‘alibi’?)

Quid quo pro
(From the story headlined Raja may be charged with endangering national security: Sources in the agency (CBI) claim to have found evidence of quid quo pro between grant of licences under Raja to firms...)
There is no dictionary result for this word in However, the answer expert at says:
The term quid quo pro is from the Latin meaning ‘something for something.’ In its more casual uses it generally refers to a roughly equal exchange of goods or services. It can also be used to mean such phases as ‘a favour for a favour, or, ‘give and take.’ From a legal standpoint, the term denotes that an item or service has been traded for something of value. A more negative connotation of the word involves bribery or blackmail. In England the phrase can simply mean ‘What’s in it for me’? mlrmlr - Answer Expert at

My guess is the readers could have understood ‘give and take’ easily in place of quid quo pro.

Fait accompli
[It was the last word in the story headlined, Thackeray, LK get SC notices on Babri. (The Supreme Court justices said, ‘... In the absence of a specific notification by the state government in this regard, it’s a fait accompli.’)]
The reporter will be justified if he/she says that it was a quote from the bench. In legal circles, it may be understood, how about the lay readers? I have doubts.
I think this French word should be explained as an accomplished fact, something already done and beyond alteration, as the tells us.