Astronomers, designers, etc., and more

Why editors don’t like ‘etc.,’ or its Gen-X variant ‘and more.’

NASA/Reuters
A natural-color image of Saturn from space, the first in which Saturn, its moons and rings, and Earth, Venus and Mars, are all visible.

A simple phrase has been catching my eye in some of the prose I’ve worked on lately. I’ve sometimes let it pass, but I’ve deleted it when its lack of actual meaning has been particularly obvious.

The phrase is “and more.” 

Is it just another way of saying “etc.”? A Generation X or maybe Millennial alternative?

Copy editors do not like “etc.” If whoever or whatever is covered by this abbreviation for the Latin phrase meaning literally “and the others” is important, it should be spelled out. And if it’s not important, or if everyone already knows what it is, why even mention it?

“And more” invites the question, “more what?” After all, Julius Caesar wrote, “All Gaul is divided into three parts....” Not “three parts and more.”

Trying to determine how widespread “and more” was, I surfed around Google News and found that Spin, the pop music site, had some recommendations for me: “Collecting the finest from Swedish psychedelia experts, bedroom-pop players, sultry Top 40 queens, and more, these are the songs you need to know right now.”

Well, maybe so. Let’s leave aside the dangling participle. (Who’s doing the collecting? Not the songs.) 

The et cetera that hints at that which the reader already knows or can readily imagine is different from the et cetera that follows the enumeration of a string of disparate elements. What is the “and more” here? Banjo players? A klezmer band? An autotuned trio? Maybe not.

“Etc.” or “and more” can be either verbal fluff or filler for the missing third of a series.

You can stop at two, and yet there is a power of three. Two points define a line, but three points define a plane. Three legs support a stool. And as any journalist will tell you, three data points define a trend.

Please bear with me as I launch into what will seem like a digression: Growing up fascinated, like much of the rest of my cohort, with the romance of outer space, I noticed that Schiaparelli, the Italian astronomer who first sighted canali on Mars, had a namesake in the world of Italian fashion. Any connection? Yes, astronomer Giovanni was the great-uncle of designer Elsa: an interesting stand-alone factoid.

Years later, editing a book that discussed the space probe named for Giovanni Domenico Cassini, the Italian astronomer who discovered four of Saturn’s moons and the split in its rings, I recalled a more recent Cassini in the fashion world: Oleg Cassini, Jackie Kennedy’s celebrated designer. Any connection to the astronomer? The family apparently believed so.

So that makes two interesting factoids on the same theme – but only two.

And that’s why my column on Italian Fashion Designers With Noted Astronomers in Their Family Trees may have to wait a bit – until there are headlines from Italy: “House of Galileo debuts in Milan, wows critics with breathtaking new designs, and more.”

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