per pro

Discuss word origins and meanings.
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per pro

Post by Archived Topic » Tue Nov 23, 2004 9:10 pm

p.p., per pro, or per proxy - isn't this Latin for 'per procurationem', meaning 'through the agency of', which is the exact opposite of 'on behalf of'? I've seen a great many official forms and letters in which it is apparently wrongly used; e.g. a teller signing 'John Smith p.p. The Bank of England' instead of 'The Bank of England p.p. John Smith'. Or simply 'p.p.John Smith'. Doesn't this make the poor teller personally responsible for any huge legal or financial liabilities the B of E might incur?
Submitted by John Barton (New Plymouth - New Zealand)
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per pro

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Nov 23, 2004 9:25 pm

I've always understood this abbreviation to stand for "pro persona", i.e. "on behalf of".
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
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per pro

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Nov 23, 2004 9:39 pm

John, As an impartial observer, who has never seen the phrase before, they look, from their dictionary definitions at least, to tend more toward being synonyms (though they are not) than opposites.

PER PROCURATIONEM adverb: commonly abbreviated ‘per proc.,’ ‘per pro.,’ ‘p.p.’ and sometimes read as ‘per procuration’: by procuration, by the action of a procurator or official agent, by the authority of an agent, by proxy or deputy. <“this letter is written per procurationem”>

ON BEHALF OF preposition: On the part of (another), in the name of, as the agent or representative of, on account of, for, instead of (with the notion of official agency), in the interest of, as the representative of <”this letter is written on behalf of my client”>

The difference between the two, as I see it, is mainly their parts of speech. ‘Per procurationem’ is an adverb describing how the action is done. On the other hand, ‘on behalf of’ is a preposition describing the relationship between the verb and the subject. But they both do refer to an official agent. Agents for insurance companies act as official agents for their companies, but I don’t think they are any more personably liable for the millions of dollars they deal in than is the bank teller. Also, it seems to me that it is John Smith, official agent for the Bank of England, and NOT the Bank of England, official agent for John Smith.

(Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary)
______________________

Ken G – September 1, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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Post by Archived Reply » Tue Nov 23, 2004 9:53 pm

Thanks, Ken. I was taught, that if e.g. I was a White House secretary, I should finish a letter that I was asked to write: "George W. Bush p.p. John Barton", to mean the letter was from the President and only sent through me as his agent. And that to write "John Barton p.p. George W. Bush", meaning the President was only acting as my agent, would be offensive. But different official forms seem to have it both ways, at random.
Reply from John Barton (New Plymouth - New Zealand)
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Post by Archived Reply » Tue Nov 23, 2004 10:08 pm

John, Ken,
There is a slight problem in that different legal systems interpret the phrase 'per procurationem' differently, namely that the person signing is acting as an authorized agent of the company or organization on whose behalf they are signing. German business correspondence practice, particularly when dealing with contractual matters, makes very fine distinctions as to the authority of the person signing. Many business correspondence styleguides suggest avoiding the abbreviation altogether and spelling out the exact situation with phrases such as "Signed on behalf of...".
As far as the sequence is concerned, I have been taught that "Alex Grumblefold p.p. Harry Todger" means that Alex is signing on behalf of Harry.
The moral of the story is, don't do it unless you have ´no choice.
Phil W. 3 September, 2004
Reply from Phil White (Munich - Germany)
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Post by Archived Reply » Tue Nov 23, 2004 10:22 pm

p.p. was in great use until a decade or two ago, at least in the UK army and official departments. It would appear that so many people 'got it wrong' and thus used it back to front, with 90% or so thinking it meant 'on behalf of' instead of the opposite 'through the agency of'- that someone with a knowledge of Latin invented or imagined 'pro persona' to make the meaning fit the words. I've personally never heard of 'pro persona'and doubt that it has any literary basis.In lists of abbreviations, style books, etc. The original meaning had been lost and it was likely that soon everyone would misuse the term.
So I suppose, that if I signed that letter 'John Barton p.p.George Bush', there would be no Taliban educated enough to place blame on me for any ensuing war!
Reply from John Barton (New Plymouth - New Zealand)
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Re: per pro

Post by Steven U » Thu Feb 21, 2008 11:42 am

Why use the latin? Why note simply write 'signed Joe Bloggs, on behalf of Georgie Bush'? or 'Signed Jill Smith on the authority of Toby Blair'? Use of foreign language abreviations may be ok, but why use them where they are commonly misunderstood — or where there is debate about what they really mean?
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Re: per pro

Post by tony h » Thu Feb 21, 2008 10:30 pm

So when does a "foreign" word or phrase become English?
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I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: per pro

Post by trolley » Thu Feb 21, 2008 11:35 pm

It seems that it’s not just the foreign language abbreviations that cause confusion in correspondence. Perhaps I’m the one who is confused, but I see “C/O” (care of) being used in different ways. I was taught that c/o was to be used when you wanted to send someone (Joe Blow) something but did not know his address. If you knew an address ( ABC Co.) where the people knew how to get a hold of Joe, you could send it to Joe, care of them.
Joe Blow
c/o ABC CO.
I have seen letters addressed c/o Joe Blow, ABC Co. This letter was for Joe ( as if c/o meant to the attention of). I have also seen ABC Co, c/o Joe Blow. This was also Joe’s letter. Sooner or later, Joe is going to get in trouble opening mail that belongs to someone else.
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Re: per pro

Post by tony h » Sat Feb 23, 2008 4:07 am

I agree with you. The only Time I would use Joe Blow c/o ABC (if that is where he could be found) is if the letter is personal to Joe Blow ie not company business.
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Re: per pro

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sun Feb 24, 2008 8:56 am

.. in Fowler's, 3rd Ed after covering what has been outlined by Ken above the following note on alternative usage is made ..
I am told that the abreviation is not used in either sense in the US, where Signed by X in Y's absence or, Dictated but not read are usual. Dictated by Y but signed in his (or her) absence is a commoner variation on this theme in the UK.
WoZ of Aus 24/02/08
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Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

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