Egg the Monkeys

My friend Dave is great at finding funny comics and passing them along; the one I usually like the best is called Pearls Before Swine because the artist, Stephan Pastis, pokes fun at language by using a strange-looking pig whose grasp of English is often entertaining. In one of my favorites, the pig mistakes the acronym e.g. for the word egg.

Pearls Before Swine

Pearls Before Swine, Stephan Pastis

It may be unlikely for someone to imagine e.g. means egg, but it isn’t unusual to see people making mistakes when they use the acronym.
Knowing when to use both e.g. and i.e. can be confusing.

  • e.g. is short for exempli gratia meaning ‘for the sake of example’ in Latin.
  • i.e. is short for id est meaning ‘that is to say’ or ‘in other words’ in Latin; in Hebrew it’s זאת אומרת .

Because they stand for Latin words, they’re hard to remember (unless you speak Latin). There are lots of memory tricks for trying to remember what they mean – some people try to remember these terms by imagining that i.e. stands for in essence and e.g. stands for egg-sample.
It’s important to know that e.g. introduces an example (part of a longer list):

  • Neta loves flowers, e.g. daisies, roses, cyclamen, and sunflowers.
    (Neta likes these flowers as well as other flowers.)
  • David plays sports, e.g. basketball, tennis, football and hockey.
    (David plays these and other sports.)

i.e. introduces a further clarification (these are the only items in the list):

  • Neta loves flowers, i.e. sunflowers.
    (These are the only flowers Neta likes.)
  • David plays sports, i.e. basketball and tennis.
    (The only sports David plays are basketball and tennis.)

My best advice about i.e. and e.g.: avoid them.
According to the Microsoft Style Guide for Technical Publications:

  • Instead of i.e. write ‘that is’
  • Instead of e.g. write ‘for example’

That’s pretty good advice, unless you want to take your chances with the eggs.



I recently invited a friend and his family over for dinner and was rather shocked when, in response to my heartfelt invitation for delicious food, the friend said “I don’t care about coming to dinner.”
If you can imagine my shock, you probably don’t need this tip. And before you recommend that I quickly run out and make some new, more polite, friends, take a breath (like I did) and think about the translation.
In Hebrew, we have the wonderful phrase לא אכפת לי   and if you have any teenagers in the house like I do, you’ll definitely be familiar with the many faceted faces and shrugs that can go along with this loaded phrase.
And, in truth, my friend’s translation wasn’t really wrong, it was just misplaced. There are many ways to let someone know you don’t care in English—many of them pretty foul. So here are the (clean) phrases that can be associated with not caring in English and the proper ways they should be used:

  • I don’t care, I couldn’t care less: This means that something is unimportant to you.
    Throwing your plastic bottles in the street is like saying I don’t care about the environment.
    Do you want pizza or pasta?
    I don’t care, either one would be fine.
    couldn’t care less who finished the wine as long as there’s another bottle.
  • I don’t care for: adding for after I don’t care changes the meaning. This means I don’t like.
    I don’t care for raw onions in my salad. I pick them out and leave them on the side of the plate.
    I’m leaving you, Martha, because I’ve realized that
    I don’t care for the perfume you wear.
  • I don’t mind: this means something does not bother you.
    I don’t mind picking little Jimmy up after kickboxing practice, you picked up last week and besides, I have nothing better to do than drive around in circles picking up the kids.
    Do you mind passing me the water? No, I don’t mind at all – here’s the water.

    Now, there is one funny use of do you mind which is using it on its own to let someone know that they are doing something really annoying, and this is a big one used by teenagers.
    When I stick my head into my daughter’s room without knocking she might whine “Mom!!! Do you mind??!!”
    If someone you don’t know seems to be eavesdropping on your conversation at a restaurant, you can give them THE look and say “
    Do you mind??!!”
    It’s sort of an expression and sort of a question and it’s full of attitude so you might want to be careful who you say it to.

So I imagine my friend meant to say that he wouldn’t mind coming for dinner. Which may not be enthusiastic enough for me to ever invite him again, but it isn’t as bad as saying I don’t care.
My advice to you is that in English, unless you really feel strongly about something it’s always better not to let people know when you “couldn’t give a shit.”