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Q: Origin and meaning of the use of the salutation "yours, &c." ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: Origin and meaning of the use of the salutation "yours, &c."
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: obiwin-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 17 Jun 2005 09:03 PDT
Expires: 17 Jul 2005 09:03 PDT
Question ID: 534230
It sometimes shows up as "I remain yours, &c." or "Respectfully
yours,&c" or "I am always yours, &c" If you do a Google search on
"yours, &c." you will see numerous examples.
When did people start using it? and what does it mean?  Is the "&c."
similar to etc.?
Subject: Re: Origin and meaning of the use of the salutation "yours, &c."
Answered By: jackburton-ga on 17 Jun 2005 12:36 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi obiwin,
"&c." is an archaic abbreviation for "et cetera". 
Linguistics Professor E. Wayles Browne explains its origin:
""&" has been around almost as long as "et". It was an ancient Roman
abbreviation (e and t together make &). So I'm sure they themselves
wrote "& caetera" side by side with "et caetera" when they wanted to
express "and the others". As for usage in English, "&c" and "etc."
have both been around for centuries, ..."
"Et cetera, often abbreviated to etc., &c. or &/c especially in older
texts, is Latin for and the others. It is often used to represent the
logical continuation of some sort of series of descriptions. For
We need a lot of fruit: apples, bananas, oranges, etc.
It is important to avoid the phrase "and etc." because then you are
saying "and and the others".
Note that in formal contexts, it is preferable to write the full
phrase et cetera as opposed to the abbreviations. The English
equivalents and so on and and so forth are also suitable. The
abbreviated versions should always be followed by a full stop, and it
is customary, even in British English in which there is no comma
before 'and' in lists, that et cetera always be preceeded by a comma.
A, B, C, etc.
and not:
A, B, C etc.
When dealing with lists of persons, it is considered extremely
inappropriate and insulting to use et cetera instead of et al. (which
stands for et alii) or and others."
Search terms used:
"&c" abbreviations
"&c" "et caetera"
"&c" "et cetera"

Request for Answer Clarification by obiwin-ga on 17 Jun 2005 13:25 PDT
Hi, I was more interested to understand why it was used at the end of
letters of correspondence. It just seemed odd to me why they would
include it.... In other words, what is the why couldn't they just say 
"respectfully yours,"  why would they include the "&c"  what else
would they have written if they chose not to abbreviate with "&c"?

Clarification of Answer by jackburton-ga on 28 Jun 2005 04:56 PDT
I apologize for the delay in replying to your clarification request.
I conducted exhaustive searches to find out how this form of signing
off came about, but found very little on the internet. I was intrigued
myself to find an explanation, and I followed up a lead from a post on
a message board. An explanation was said to be found in the book,
"Talking It Over", by Julian Barnes, so out of curiosity I ordered the
book from my local library to find this reference.
"The thing I remember from the Letters Page [of The Times newspaper]
in those antique days was the way the OBs signed off. There was Yours
faithfully, Yours sincerely, and I have the honour to be, sir, your
obedient servant. But the ones I always looked for - and which I took
to be the true sign of an Old Bastard - simply ended like this: Yours
etc. And then the newspaper drew even more attention to the sign-off
by printing it: Yours &c.
Yours &c. I used to muse about that. What did it mean? Where did it
come from? I imagined some bespatted captain of industry dictating his
OB's views to his secretary for transmission to the Newspaper of
Record which he doubtless referred to with jocund familiarity as 'The
Thunderer'. When his oratorical belch was complete, he would say,
'Yours etc.' which Miss ffffffolks would automatically transcribe
into, 'I have the honour to be, sir, one of the distinguished Old
Bastards who could send you the label off a tin of pilchards and you
would still print it above this my name,' or whatever, and then it
would be, 'Despatch this instanter to the Thunderer, Miss
But one day Miss ffffffolkes was away giving a handjob to the
Archbishop of York, so they sent a temp. And the temp wrote down
Yours, etc. just as she heard it and The Times reckoned the OB captain
of industry a very gusher of wit, but decided to add their own little
rococo touch by compacting further to &c, whereupon other OBs followed
the bespatted lead of the captain of industry, who claimed all the
credit for himself. There you have it: Yours &c."
(Talking It Over, Chapter 11. - Love, &c.)
obiwin-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
I am amazed by the level of digging to find this answer.

Subject: Re: Origin and meaning of the use of the salutation "yours, &c."
From: waukon-ga on 17 Jun 2005 12:52 PDT
The ampersand ('&') is a ligatature of the letters 'e' and 't'. A
ligature combines two or more letters into a single character.

I would not call the ampersand an abbreviation.
Subject: Re: Origin and meaning of the use of the salutation "yours, &c."
From: myoarin-ga on 28 Jun 2005 07:07 PDT
As to the use of "yours etc." in closing letters, I believe this
reflects much earlier usage, when in Europe letters were signed under
formal expressions or respect to the person addressed in the letter  -
just as the opening included more  resepctful terms than just "Dear

This formality arose in times when social hierarchy were more rigid
and written communications were between persons of at the upper levels
and very conscious of their relative status, so when signing a letter
to a higher ranked person it was common (and appropriate, and the
omission a breach of etiquette) to sign with something like "with
greatest respect, your (most) humble and obedient servant ..."

I know that I have seen copies of letters in books, in which such an
"acquiescent" closing was patently inappropriate, as the writer was of
higher rank.  This suggests that such closings had become a
meaningless formality, but such formalities are still common in some
languages when addressing envelopes, using outmoded forms  (wouldn't
want the letter carrier to think that the recipient was a nobody (-:

And using such outmoded forms suggested that the writer was maybe a
step or two higher socially, aware of the correct form used by persons
of rank.

I believe this was later abbreviated to "yours etc.", perhaps
following a time when "respectfully yours etc." let it be more clear
that the "humble servant" or whatever was being alluded to, which
could also be an expression of professional equality and respect.
German lawyers still sign business letters to each other with
"Mit kollegialer Hochachtung"  (with collegial respect) or the like,
thereby signifying their professional respect for the person addressed
and indicating that the content of the letter (maybe boldly refuting
points in a case) is not personally meant.

Subject: Re: Origin and meaning of the use of the salutation "yours, &c."
From: namteo-ga on 14 Jul 2005 17:55 PDT
I happened on this page after a rereading of Jane Austen's Pride and
Prejudice. After seeing multiple instances of "yours, etc." in one
form or another appearing at the end of correpsondence, I would have
to agree with myoarin-ga's assessment of its origins. Although no
expert on the matter, it would appear that "yours, etc." and its
variants allude to a set of standard salutations in correspondence.  I
have found a few examples which seem to point to this intepretation. 
Darcy ends a letter to Lady Catherine de Bourgh with "YOURS SINCERELY,
ETC." A letter from Lydia to Elizabeth towards the end of the novel
ends with "YOURS, ETC."  Maybe meaningless, but observed nonetheless,
is that the characters who share a more casual relationship (Lydia to
Lizzie, Elizabeth with her aunt and uncle) ended their letters with
"Yours, etc." Maybe this could imply that formality and the length of
these endings are directly related.

Another possible interpretation is that the "etc." is used to replace
the details of an ending salutation already known between
correspondents. For instance, in the same novel, Mr. Collins ends one
of his letters with "I remain, dear sir, with respectful compliments
to your lady and daughters, your well-wisher and friend, WILLIAM
COLLINS."  Later on in the novel, he shortens it to "I AM, DEAR SIR,

I suppose most of what I just wrote is merely conjecture. Still, one
thing we can be sure about is that "Yours, etc." has been in use since
1813, when Pride and Prejudice was published, and one can assume that
it was used further back than that.

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