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The Latin et cetera, abbreviated etc., is often used at the end of an incomplete, inclusive list of items when it is clear that there are more items than can be enumerated conveniently and there is no ambiguity about what the omitted items are. For example: "Joseph's amazing technicolor dreamcoat was red, yellow, green, brown, scarlet, etc."

Is there an equivalent abbreviation that would serve a similar purpose when the list is exclusive? "My mother hit your mother in the nose. What color blood came out? Was it red, yellow, green, brown, scarlet, ...?"

I have always just rewritten the sentence or written out the full "or something else," but the lack of complementary abbreviation to etc. has always bothered me.

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There is no standard "abbreviation" for or the rest. I see no real symmetry between etc. (and other similar things) and or something else. Trying to "force" this by drafting in the word "rest" in both cases is simply misleading. Besides which there's no particular reason why any linguistic element should have a symmetrical partner accross any particular semantic axis. Voting to close as "too localised". –  FumbleFingers Jan 26 '12 at 0:01
    
@FumbleFingers: I don't think this is 'too localized', just that it turns out there is no answer of the kind the OP is looking for. That is, I think the answer is 'etc' is what is best here. –  Mitch Jan 30 '12 at 3:13
    
@Mitch: I find OP's mother/blood example a bit weird, to be honest. But suppose it's a sci-fi/fantasy story, where an alien has just been punched in the nose. For me, 'etc.' just doesn't work there - I'd expect "or what?", or maybe "or some other colour?". Consider a more normal example like "I hear you got a new car - is it a Ford, a BMW, a Toyota, etc.?" For me, "etc." is just totally unacceptable there unless you're really asking "is it a mass-market car? (as opposed to a Bentley/Rolls Royce/Lamborghini)". –  FumbleFingers Jan 31 '12 at 14:19
    
@FumbleFingers: I guess I didn't realy understand the OP. I thought the choices were 'etc' works for a partially known infinite set vs some word that should work for a known finite set. But really the OP is looking for 'inclusive or' items partially specified, and 'exclusive or' of items partially specified. That distinction, as interesting as it might be, is just not made by 'etc' (that is, 'etc' works perfectly well for both). –  Mitch Jan 31 '12 at 16:13
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Upvoted, and calling for people to widthdraw their close votes. It's a valid question with a genuine (if obscure) answer provided by @Drew. –  slim Feb 3 '12 at 16:14

3 Answers 3

Aut Cetera, abbreviated as autc. Anologous to Et cetera, it means "or so on"

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+1 for being plausible, but worth noting that hardly anyone would understand it if you used it. –  slim Feb 3 '12 at 16:13

The OED definition for et cetera says in part:

As phrase: And the rest, and so forth, and so on (cf. Greek καὶ τὰ λοιπά, German und so weiter), indicating that the statement refers not only to the things enumerated, but to others which may be inferred from analogy.

The "inferred from analogy" part is the important one. I'm not aware of any prohibitions against using etc. to mean "or so on" rather than "and so on." Your meaning will be clear regardless.

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The Latin abbreviation et al. (short for et alii, which means and others) is used to indicate additional items which are not as important, especially when talking about authors or other people.

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Note that it doesn't work in the OP's example: Was it red, yellow, green, brown, scarlet, et al? That would be asking whether the blood was all those colors and others, instead of or others. So the proper Latin would be aut alii. Don't use it though. –  Daniel Jan 26 '12 at 1:37
    
I usually think of et al. as standing for et alia in the neuter plural. If I were talking about young mothers, I suppose it might even be et aliae. Similarly, people don’t use inter alii; they use inter alia. –  tchrist Jan 26 '12 at 2:56

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