Re:BCE and CE

Posted by W.F. on September 13, 2001

In Reply to: BC and AD posted by Bruce Kahl on September 13, 2001

: The abbreviations B.C. and A.D. are now considered to be a tad ethno/religious centric.
: New abbreviations are now being used.
: Anybody know the pc versions?
'Before the Common Era' and 'Common Era'
_OED_ cites an 1881 instance of BCE and an 1886 instance of CE, as well as an 1825 use of C.AE. for `Christian Era.' Dr.J.H. Marshall, Senior Assistant Editor of the New Shorter OED, adds, "It is notable that all the sources are works of Jewish
history, and I suspect that CE for Christian Era was an initialmove away from the more overtly `partisan' AD. In fact, we have very few examples of `common era' or of the abbreviations CE and
BCE, all from recent books on the history of non-Christian religions or cultures (including Judaism and Sikhism). They seem still to be used only in contexts where AD and BC would be particularly incongruous, or by authors particularly reluctant
to use the Christian term."

Kathleen M. Doherty of Merriam-Webster Inc. writes there is very little definitive information about these abbreviations. Both Christian Era and Common Era are available expansions of C.E. and have been since at least the 1909 _Webster's New International Dictionary_. "C.E. common era seems to have become more widespread especially in books dealing with theology over the last ten to fifteen years."

It's disappointing not to find a smoking lexicographical gun, a text (early 19c seems likely) where the author says "I'm going
to coin CE/BCE because . . . " (where the reasons are something like a) I'm not a Christian, or b) I don't believe in using Latin when native words will do, or c) A.D. just presents too many usage problems- -does it go before or after, how do you use it with a century or a range of dates? or d) I know how hard it is to deal with abbreviations in dictionaries.

(This is probably all more than the initial poser of this query wanted to know, and less.)

  • Thanx Bruce Kahl 09/14/01