9

'Postscript' is a single word in modern English, and Dictionary.com states that it's even based on a single Latin word, postscrīptum. So, why do some abbreviate it to p.s. (or P.S.), as on this Wikipedia page? Is it OK to abbreviate it as ps.?

Update: It seems Dictionary.com may have been wrong with its etymological explanation of the modern English word. Nevertheless, given that the modern English 'postscript' is one single word, shouldn't the abbreviation be able to be updated?

  • 6
    Because abbreviating it as “P” wouldn't be very clear, would it? – F'x Sep 14 '11 at 10:45
  • Nope, but I like ps. ... then again, I like eg. and ie. too. – Jez Sep 14 '11 at 10:53
  • 1
    Dictionary.com is clearly wrong. Anyway, your question about its spelling is related to Punctuation after “P.S.” – Alenanno Sep 14 '11 at 11:09
11

It seems that Dictionary.com might have made a mistake in connecting the two words. Both Etymonline.com and Wikipedia agree on it being separate:

Etymonline.com: 1520s, from L. post scriptum "written after," from neuter pp

Wikipedia: The term comes from the Latin post scriptum, an expression meaning "written after"

Thus, the explanation for why it's written P.S. is probably because it came from two separate Latin words.

  • But is it now legitimate to say ps. instead? – Jez Sep 14 '11 at 8:19
  • No, as everyone still writes it as "p.s." or "P.S.", haven't heard of "ps." yet – Thursagen Sep 14 '11 at 9:58
  • @Thursagen: It's not probably, but the exact reason why it's written P.S., because they are 2 words. :) – Alenanno Sep 14 '11 at 11:24
  • 2
    @Jez: P.S. is not only used in English. Also German uses it as P.S., while PS stands for "Pferdestärke" — "Horsepower" – vikingosegundo Sep 14 '11 at 19:47
  • Do we have precedent in English for putting a period after contracted abbreviations? Reading "ps." I would assume the word began ps... and interpret the abbreviation as psychology or something. If we were to recognize the single word nature it would just be ps, no period. – Unrelated Dec 14 '13 at 22:48
7

Dictionary.com is wrong here. The correct Latin origin is post scriptum, literally "after the written", definitely 2 words. I've had Latin in school.

  • Short and clear, and I agree with you. +1 :) – Alenanno Sep 14 '11 at 11:35
1

The word postscript may be based on a single latin word (the jury seems to be out on that one...), but it's not the english word postscript that you use for a postscript in a letter (or the single latin word that it might be based on), it's the latin term post scriptum, which is two words.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.