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ie and eg

November 27, 2014

Today I was on a train from London to Cambridge and decided to check my emails on my laptop; to do this I had to register with the train company’s wi-fi service; to do that I had to fill in an online form with all my personal details. So I was zooming through the boxes until I was brought up short by this instruction: Date of birth, ie 1960.

What? Why should they, and why would they, and how dare they presume that everyone was born in 1960? And if they do make that presumption, why even bother to include the question? Why not just pre-fill the box with ‘1960’ – why even have the box at all, in fact, if everyone’s birth year is the same?

OK, I jest. They didn’t mean ie, they meant eg – that is, they meant for example, rather than that is. It’s quite a widespread confusion, but I’ve never seen such an egregious example.

As it happens, they were only a year out. If they’d said “ie 1961” I’d have been a bit spooked.

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