I hear people use the term vis-à-vis all the time in place of what I believe should more correctly be for example or that is.
What is the most generally accepted correct and appropriate use of vis-à-vis, and what are its origins?
According to The Phrase Finder, the term is French and literally meant face-to-face. When the English picked it up in the 18th century, they started using it to describe a type of horse-drawn carriage wherein there are two seats, allowing occupants to sit across from one another in a face-to-face fashion.
Usage eventually extended to include the alternate meaning of with regard to, and in modern-day discourse it is accepted to use with regard to and vis-à-vis interchangeably. In fact, many people will get confused when you use it to convey its original meaning since the alternate meaning has overshadowed it.
As a complement to the other answers, as to the origins, here are the ways the phrase is used in French, which maybe helpful to gain a better insight of the various usages in English.
In French, 'vis-à-vis' can be used as a preposition, an adverb or a noun.
Facing, in the presence of:
(archaic, regional Canada) Compared to :
Relative to, figuratively:
To be facing:
Phrasal adverb, qualifier:
Person facing someone else:
The opposite facade:
To be facing:
To be facing, reflexively:
To move into a facing position:
(rare) To be facing (in English this renders no differently to the above) :
Carriage with two facing seats:
Small sofa, where two people can talk conveniently:
(adapted from cntrl.fr)
IMO, these days the expression vis-à-vis is often used in sentences where a comparison is being made.
---- and so forth. It is mostly used to paint a picture of something "pitted against" or "in the face of" or "as opposed to" something else.
Hope this helps.
When I hear/see people use it, I usually find they are using it to mean "as opposed to". I guess the face-to-face metaphor can mean the opposing opinion. Whether or not that is correct usage is slightly arbitrary, just my observation of how people seem to use it.
Accepted English usage in the military and in corporate meetings I have personally been a part of are "in relation to" or "concerning". They can be used to refer to a geographic location, opinions, or two or more items.
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