Let’s All Start Using ‘Viz’

posted in: Day In The Life, Word Nerd 12
“Woman Writing” by August Macke, 1910. Image: Wikipedia.


I’ve learned over the years that folks love the “Word Nerd” posts on the ol’ PG. The copy editing post was a big hit, for example.

Well, kids, it’s a Word Nerd Day. And it’s a good one, too.

I came across an abbreviation a couple weeks ago while (re)reading P.G. Wodehouse’s “Joy In the Morning” for the humor writing class I’m teaching. I’ll put the sentence in below; all you need to know for context is that it’s the incomparable (and incomparably funny) Bertram “Bertie” Wooster speaking:

… it had naturally seemed that the end of the world had come and Judgement Day set in with unusual severity. But to me, the cool and level-headed bystander, the whole thing had been pure routine. One shrugged the shoulders and recognized it for what it was — viz. pure apple sauce.

Viz! Do you know this one?? I didn’t, but when I saw it, I decided that if P.G. Wodehouse used it, I must start using it, too, and liberally. Here’s the definition:

viz. | viz |
adverb           chiefly British
namely; in other words (used to introduce a gloss or explanation): the first music reproducing media, viz., the music box and the player piano.
Latin, from videreto see” + licetit is permissible.”


Thinking through this “viz” biz, I’m now aware that I’ve been using “i.e.” when I should probably be using viz.

In case you need a refresher, “i.e.” means “that is to say.” It’s used to add explanatory information or to state something in different words, e.g., “I love going on spa retreats, i.e., spending hundreds of dollars to have someone smack me with kelp leaves while I pretend that the quinoa patty I ate for lunch was totally satisfying and also I am trying not to get cucumber water in my eyeballs.”

[See what I did with the “e.g.” up there? Because “e.g.” means “for example”! I know. There are so many of those and now there’s viz.]

Here are some sentences where I practice using viz.

The main point of Mary’s lecture, viz. that caramel should be a food group, was misunderstood.

Several of Santa’s reindeer, viz. Dasher, Blitzen, and Donner, were total jerks. 

But the hobo had one obvious problem, viz. he was wearing a tin can for a hat.

Okay, now you practice. Well, if you want. Practice using viz. if you’re a Word Nerd like me. (And if you’re reading this, you totally are, even if you didn’t know that about yourself.)

12 Responses

  1. Sherri
    | Reply

    So, then, what is “vis a vis”? Or is it “viz a viz”? lNow I’m lost…

    • Nann
      | Reply

      Sheri, “vis” is French for face, so it literally means “face to face,” or: “if you take this idea and put it face to face with that idea you’ll see that they are two different things.” Viz., as Mary explains, is an abbreviation of Latin.

  2. Marianne ten Kate
    | Reply

    Viz and to wit Madam Blogger; ergo your literary sparkle delights us all! (Smiley face, smiley face, smiley face, open book emojis.)

  3. Beth Ann
    | Reply

    No can do, Mary. “Viz” is already used as an abbreviation for visibility when I’m SCUBA diving. And it seems to me that each of your practice sentences would be better served by punctuation.

    The main point of Mary’s lecture, that caramel should be a food group, was misunderstood.
    (Totally agree, by the way.)

    Several of Santa’s reindeer (Dasher, Blitzen, and Donner) were total jerks.
    (Thank you for using the Oxford comma!)

    But the hobo had one obvious problem: he was wearing a tin can for a hat.

    I love new words, but this doesn’t seem to add much.

    Love ya!
    Beth Ann

    • Kath
      | Reply

      I agree. I think I will leave “viz” to the Brits.

  4. Barb Allen
    | Reply

    A great way to start the day, viz. reading Mary’s latest post….

  5. Amy Spungen
    | Reply

    So funny and apt! But don’t you need a comma after each example of “viz.” you provide, similar to the example in the definition?

    • Mary
      | Reply

      YOU ARE CORRECT, MA’AM! Thank you … 🙂

  6. Karen
    | Reply

    Guilty as charged, viz. I’m definitely a word nerd!

  7. Ann Bailey
    | Reply

    You used viz yesterday in your post! I noticed.

  8. Ivy
    | Reply

    It’s in the Hagaddah, too–the Passover seder book 😉

  9. A Red Wall?! - Mary Fons
    | Reply

    […] Red is my signature color, of course; my “Heart Plus” logo features my favorite shade, viz. a bright crimson. I actually heard someone say when trying to describe a shade of red, […]

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