I saw the word “sine qua non” in the article of New York Times (October 12) written by Gail Collins under the title, “The Gift of Glib.” The article deals with the big Republican debate held in New Hampshire this week, and the word appears in the following sentence:
9-9-9 is the sine qua non of the (Herman) Cain candidacy. It would scrap the tax code and give us 9 percent corporate, income and national sales taxes. He mentions it every 10 seconds (in the debate).
I was able to find the definition of “sine qua non” in Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “something absolutely indispensable or essential” and “Reliability is a sine qua non for success” as a sample of its usage.
I’m interested in how popular or common this word is among native English speakers. I’ve been warned in how-to-write books that abuse of Latin often gives a pedantic tinge and looks odd.
If I use “sine qua non” instead of "essential or basic requirement" in colloquial conversation with native speakers, or even in writing, will I be ridiculed?