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e vs. ex

Last week, one of my Latin students asked why the preposition ex is sometimes shortened to e but sometimes not.  That allowed me to teach the class one of my favorite mnemonics, which my first Latin teacher, Mr. Vivian, taught me 20 years ago:

Ex ungue leonem, it’s very plain to see
That a proper Latin scholar knows his ex from A to Z.
Use e before a consonant, but never with a vowel:
E pluribus is perfect, but e aequo would be foul.
Ex animo, officio, and aequo heed the lex;
With consonants, it’s either one, but very often ex:
Ex tempore, ex cathedra, ex parte, ex post facto,
Ex nihilo, ex libris–these examples are exacto.

For the benefit of Latin aficionados across the pond, the first two lines can be modified:
Ex ungue leonem, it’s very plainly said
That a proper Latin scholar knows his ex from A to Z.

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