Talk:Mutatis mutandis

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Small error[edit]

I think there is a small error in this good article: the absolut ablative consists in a participle in the ablative case and a substantive (noun, pronoun...) in ablative case too. In the locution "mutatis mutandis","mutatis" is the participle (plural, perfect, ablative), while "mutandis" must be read as "mutandis rebus" (gerundive, with the idea of necessity) and it is used as a substantive. Massimo — preceding comment added 16:23, 9 May 2007 (UTC)

Well HELLO!! LAST time I checked "absolut" had an e on the end. This confirms the principle (whose exact name I forget) that any correction will inevitably contain an error of its own. But you are right, Massimo. This is an excellent article. It's short, pithy, provides good examples, and doesn't go on forever. Who lifted it from where? As for your points... aaaah, well, I couldn't understand a word of it. Myles325a (talk) 00:45, 8 August 2008 (UTC)
At least three errors: it's "ablative absolute", not "absolute ablative", and, while the mutandis is a substantive, there's no hidden reading necessary. It stands on its own. — LlywelynII 01:37, 5 August 2015 (UTC)

Is this really in accordance with common usage?[edit]

Right now (i.e., 15:36, 24 September 2008 (UTC)), the last item in the Examples section reads:

  • Mutatis mutandis a corpse decomposes much faster in air than in water.

I am rather surprised. Personnaly I would never use mutatis mutandis in this manner. Instead, I might have said:

Ceteris paribus, a corpse decomposes much faster in air than in water.

I'm convinced that that alternative is better Latin. However, I suppose that the real question is not whether this suggested usage of mutatis mutandis is good or bad Latin, but whether it is an actually occurring usage (in the world outside the Wikimedia projects).

Thus, I'd like to ask whether really some people IRL are using mutatis mutandis rather than ceteris paribus, when they mean "all other things being equal".

PS. I looked up this item, since I just employed the expression in an article in mathematics, Cyclic module, and wanted to check whether the explanation was 'sensible'. IMHO, mutatis mutandis is a very useful 'shorthand phrase', when e.g. I want to gloss over details for right modules after having dealt in detail with left modules; personnally I use it in teaching mathematics, when I think its usefulness outweights having to explain it. Such usage seems not quite to be covered by the context description. JoergenB (talk) 15:36, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

I have always regarded the two expressions as semantically equal, though clearly having different literal translations - "the rest being equal" suggesting the same as "the necessary changes having been made" (to make the situations equal). I wouldn't so much call it "slightly improper" as looking at the situation from a different vantage. Instead of using a decomposing corpse, one might say "mutatis mutandis, it is easier drilling through a marshmallow than a brick" ciao Rotational (talk) 13:14, 25 September 2008 (UTC)
I don't get it. I could possibly understand a statement like "mutatis mutandis, drilling through a marshmallow is the same as drilling through a brick", where of course the "mutandis" inter alia would refer to the choice of drill and the amount of force applied. In your usage, you do not seem to refer to the situation "after the necessary changes have been made", but rather to "the necessary changes that should be made"; i.e., these are the (res) mutandae themselves. In my humble opinion, the case forms indicate another usage than yours; I think that's why COD writes "with due alteration of details", not "the details due to be altered".
However, I'm a mathematician by profession, not a linguist; judging from your user page, you have a similar background, and so it might be interesting with a somewhat more professional input, too. JoergenB (talk) 17:19, 25 September 2008 (UTC)
Ah, I think I understand the problem and it is embodied in the word "necessary" in the "necessary changes having been made". If one uses the same driil, the same drillbit, the same drill speed, the same current and voltage, the same drill-press moving the drill bit under the same force then one would drill through the marshmallow in a shorter period of time. The word "necessary" there meaning making all factors the same except for one - the object to be drilled, a marshmallow on the one hand and a brick on the other. That way one obtains a fair comparison of the two situations. Of course, if the ease with which one drills through the two substances is unimportant, and we leave it out of the equation, then one can indeed say that "mutatis mutandis, drilling through a marshmallow is the same as drilling through a brick" - you get two holes. So you either suppress some factors or make them equal so as to investigate the behaviour of another variable (the necessary changes having been made). You were only interested in whether you could drill through both materials, whereas I was interested in the comparative hardness of the two substances. Different objectives using the same basic procedure. ciao Rotational (talk) 19:13, 25 September 2008 (UTC)
No, I don't think that is the problem. Actually, I find no conceptual problem here. You are providing a good explanation of the phrase "Ceteris paribus, it is easier drilling through a marshmallow than a brick"; and I have no trouble with that. (Actually, I studied a little bit of economics in my youth, and got fairly used to ceteris paribus analyses.) As for interpreting mutatis mutandis as applicable in this case, the 'necessity' is not implied by the Latin words; I think "mutandis" means more something like "(things that) are to be changed"; and both the plural form on -is and the actual usage I've encountered indicate that normally there are several words or other factors to change simultaneously.
As I wrote before, I think that an opinion frome someone with a more "professional" knowledge of Latin might be useful, whence I dropped a note at User talk:Andrew Dalby#Pagina corrigenda??. (He's a fairly active editor on the Latin wikipedia, and definitely knows immensely much more Latin than I do.) Yours, JoergenB (talk) 18:01, 26 September 2008 (UTC)
I'm happy to weigh in, but I think this is a matter of logic rather than one calling for deep knowledge of Latin. We agree, I guess, that ceteris paribus means "other things being equal", i.e. "assuming that other conditions are the same in both cases"; mutatis mutandis means "when things that need changing have been changed". I'm surprised to see that the article currently says the two are semantically similar: they are practically opposites. Mm allows that external conditions can be altered; Cp assumes that they will remain the same.
As to the examples in the article, I have no problem with examples 1, 3, 4 and 5, but:
  • example 2: "His cat" and "His dog" should be changed to "Her cat" and "Her dog", "mutatis mutandis" for pony, sheep and cow. I can understand this example but it seems weak and ponderous. Only one word needs to be changed in each case, so why bother with the Latin phrase?
  • example 6: "Mutatis mutandis" a corpse decomposes much faster in air than in water. This seems a wrong or very misleading example. The text doesn't say, or imply, what things might have to be changed (granted the one predefined change of water to air) and the reader can't guess what those things might be. So in this sentence the phrase "mutatis mutandis" means nothing to the reader: so it would be better omitted.
Andrew Dalby 20:10, 26 September 2008 (UTC)
Well, example 6 was the starting point for this discussion. JoergenB (talk) 20:36, 26 September 2008 (UTC)
I bow to User:Andrew Dalby's knowledge of Latin, however, as he says, this is a matter of logic. "Other things being equal" suggests that in two situations a particular variable is placed under the spotlight while all other properties are considered equal. "Necessary changes having been made" and despite User:JoergenB's conviction that "'necessity' is not implied by the Latin words", the gerund form carries exactly that connotation. One could substitute other words like ought to or obliged to. Amanda means a female that should be loved or ought to be loved - I hope you can see that necessary is most certainly implied. So that "Necessary changes having been made" again refers to two situations which can only be compared when the needed adjustments have been made. I really don't understand why Andrew Dalby feels "that they are practically opposites" - they are not. ciao Rotational (talk) 19:49, 28 September 2008 (UTC)
As I tried to say, ceteris paribus assumes that external circumstances will have remained the same; mutatis mutandis assumes that some if not all external circumstances will have been changed. Thus they are "practically opposites". Andrew Dalby 16:13, 3 October 2008 (UTC)
Minor point: "Amanda" does not mean "someone that it is necessary to love", as far as I anderstand the gerunds. Howeve, I do note that the uninogged editor agrees with you in claiming that the "gerund" carries such a meaning.
Major point: The phrase is not "(res) mutanda" or "(res) mutandae", but "mutatis mutandis". I think this is a matter of language interpretation more than logic; I do not think that it is a quite proper to apply the phrase "mutatis mutandis" on a description of things that are changed, but that it refers to a comparison of situations disregarding some (minor) changes. The form "mutandis" could be a dative or ablative plural; and in this case I think it is an ablative.
Questions to Andrew: Is it really correct to call these forms "gerunds", as done in the article? Aren't they gerundives? Also, and related, I wonder if really it is clear that the forms here represent neuter; I would more have supposed an implicit "rebus", making them feminine. JoergenB (talk) 10:31, 29 September 2008 (UTC)
Both mutatis and mutandis are ablative plurals denoting "with" - "(with) those things changed that required to be changed". Gerunds strictly speaking are different from gerundives. Amandum as a gerund means loving and is a verbal noun usually preceded by a possessive, as in "her loving". Quoting from my Chambers, gerundive is a Latin verbal adjective expressing necessity, as amandus -a -um, deserving or requiring to be loved. ciao Rotational (talk) 08:37, 30 September 2008 (UTC)
Yes, both phrases (ceteris paribus and mutatis mutandis) are ablatives, but the ablative here does not denote "with". (This is one of the errors in the current version of the article). They are "ablative absolutes", which are not usually to be translated by any preposition in English; the normal translation for an ablative absolute would be either a "when..." or an "if..." clause, or a phrase using a participle. Fairly literal translations in these two cases, using participles, are "other things being equal" and "those things that need to be changed having been changed". Alternate translations, using an "if..." and a "when..." clause respectively, would be "if other things remain equal" and "when those things that need to be changed have been changed".
Yes, mutandis is a gerundive. It is an adjective, though the noun is implied and not stated (a common trick in Latin). It means "[things] that need to be changed" or "[things] that require to be changed". The exact meanings that the gerundive can carry depend on the verb and the context. "Amanda" (feminine) is a good example: it means "[a person] who deserves/requires/needs/ought to be loved".
It is because Latin can play these tricks with gerundives, with ablative absolutes, and with implied nouns, that the phrase we are discussing is so much shorter and neater than any English translation can be. Which is why it's worth using. Andrew Dalby 15:56, 3 October 2008 (UTC)
Eh, it's standard for Latin students to translate ablative absolutes using "with" and "having done": "With Kanye having burst upon the stage, Taylor burst into tears." More experienced translators usually aim for more natural English phrasing by changing it completely: "once...", "after...", &c. but it's not wrong to keep the phrasing closer to the Latin. — LlywelynII 02:34, 5 August 2015 (UTC)
Yes, one might say "mutatis mutandis, it is easier drilling through a marshmallow than a brick" but that sentence does not have the same meaning as the sentence "ceteris paribus, it is easier drilling through a marshmallow than a brick". In the first case, you're explicitly saying that other, obviously necessary modifications have been made (e.g., a narrower bit has been used and the marshmallow has been clamped into place ). In the latter, you're explicitly saying that nothing else has changed except for the stated replacement of the brick by a marshmallow. — LlywelynII 02:25, 5 August 2015 (UTC)
You and Mr Dalby're right and Rotational is wrong: mutatis mutandis and ceteris paribus are in no sense identical. CP is "ignoring the other differences" and MM is "the necessary differences having been accounted for". You were correct that the example about corpses was a bad one. It's fine if the distinction is hard to grok: they're both parentheticals and aside the main point the author is making. But if you don't see the difference, don't use either in your own work. Stick with English: "all else equal" in the case of ceteris paribus and "the necessary changes having been made" in the case of mut. mut.. — LlywelynII 02:16, 5 August 2015 (UTC)

Very confusing article?[edit]

Picking up on the discussion above, I thought this article was quite baffling, and confused the concepts of "changing things" (MM's focus) and "keeping things the same" (CP's focus). As such I too think the expressions are opposite, rather than the same.

Particularly, this sentence really threw me:

The term is used when comparing two situations with a multiplicity of common variables set at the same value, in which the value of only one variable is allowed to differ—"all other things being equal"—thereby making comparison easier

That just seems plain wrong to me.

The term MM is used when one starts with a 'something' (e.g. a document) and want to change one aspect of it. This may mean other changes are required throughout the document to reflect the initial change. Terminology relating to 'variables' and 'parameterizing' does not fit well with this expression, I think.

The term CP is used when one starts with multiple variables and wishes to change one and keep others exactly the same (i.e. no 'changes' as in the example for MM above).

What do others think?Amilnerwhite (talk) 23:51, 12 August 2009 (UTC)

That quote is from mathematical language, where it is expressed by a symbol (like in algebra, take a to be b and b to be a, i.e. swap them around), and is not good at at a language article, the technical meaning in mathematics has no place here, I think.
Disclosure: Mathematician and linguist. Computational linguistics is kinda probably roughly where I sit, but you learn a lot from both sides on the way. Si Trew (talk) 12:28, 10 November 2009 (UTC)
Interesting, thanks! Perhaps distinction should be made between its legal and mathematical usage. Amilnerwhite (talk) 20:38, 10 November 2009 (UTC)
Mutatis mutandis's mathematical usage certainly belongs here. That said, the definition above is a definition of ceteris paribus and therefore has no business being here. — LlywelynII 02:41, 5 August 2015 (UTC)


George Orwell uses this term extensively, against all reason, since he wanted to write plain English, yet often says mutatis mutandis. Perhaps for effect, but it is also in his private letters. I guess it was just a phrase built into him that he never quite got rid of, because to say "changed as necessary" would be more his style than the Latin. Is it worth mentioning? Si Trew (talk) 12:24, 10 November 2009 (UTC)

Just a guess, but perhaps to Orwell it *was* plain language (even if not strictly English). He would perhaps have responded that any educated man of his day would understand what MM meant, which is probably true. Today, of course, the situation is much different - hence the confusion of some of the comments on this page. Fool4jesus (talk) 20:23, 13 November 2009 (UTC)
This. I'm curious though if mut. mut. was more popular in English than other languages that used Latin shorthand, given that it fits an alliterative pattern that suits England's own literary tradition. — LlywelynII 02:43, 5 August 2015 (UTC)

"Dubious" tag for addition of "Mutatis mutandis" to Lord Roger quote.[edit]

Hi all,
Lord Roger quote, from "Just as... " to " ...female mates" has a reliable source. Appending "Mutatis mutandis" to the quote, though it has wide coverage, would currently appear to be without reliable sources. As always, I am more than happy to be proved wrong! :-) --Shirt58 (talk) 11:23, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

i dont know how to edit notes but here is reliable source: 1 in the middle of page 37 to the PDF file. (Lisa.analli) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Liza analli (talkcontribs) 18:15, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

Shorter but much more confusing[edit]

I sort of just stumbled on this article again, and I must say that since the last time I edited (for a wholly minor reason) it's gotten much more confusing. Explanations and comparisons have been removed and I must say that now, after reading the article, I'm not sure I really understand what this term means or when (if?) to use it, at all. I don't remember feeling that way the last time I read it. Also, the remaining example from the discrimination (?) case is not exactly super helpful because the judge seems to be making a rather oblique point. I honestly can't myself suggest better examples or sentences to add, but maybe someone else out there can? Or maybe some edits can just be reverted? Agnosticaphid (talk) 05:04, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

Fixed. — LlywelynII 01:56, 6 August 2015 (UTC)

Examples not exemplary[edit]

The current (much too long) examples do use the phrase and even dwell on it some, but they're not famous and they don't provide useful examples of how it is employed or formatted. The quote from a legal opinion isn't about the term's legal use but about its more general sense. We should aim to have a quote from each of the fields listed in the lead, in each of the senses in which it can appear. Ideally, we'd also have examples of each of the grammatical structures that are normally employed: set off by commas, set off by parentheses, left in the running text. — LlywelynII 01:56, 6 August 2015 (UTC)