Bona fides

Bona fides‘ is almost always used to refer to one’s CREDENTIALS in a grand way. The reference is not just to documents (although it can be, in the legal realm), it is to the training, experience and body of work that together establish authenticity and legitimacy.

Michael Lewis is a serious writer with a list of serious bona fides: Princeton bachelor’s degree, master’s from the London School of Economics, a brief career on Wall Street and author of best-selling, non-fiction books like “Money Ball,” “The Big Short,” and “The Blind Side.” – Globe Gazette

It need not refer to a member of the establishment. Punk journalists can establish their bona fides. The key point is legitimacy.

My Damage was co-written with National Endowment for the Arts fellow and award-winning writer Jim Ruland, who brought with him his own punk bona fides from his work with fanzine Razorcake, and as a staff writer for its predecessor, the now defunct LA punk zine Flipside. – Claremont Courier

Pronunciation is the tricky part. How should an English speaker pronounce this?

bōna fidēs

We shouldn’t get too prissy here, as language is fluid. But some aspects of the original should be preserved. Here is some good advice: remember to pronounce the ‘e’, and you will be fine. The following is the most accepted modern-day Latin pronunciation:

boh-na fee-days

A version with the Americanized short ‘o’ sound comes in a close second:

bah-na fee-days

Sometimes the computer voice on a dictionary website will say it this way (although I have never heard it spoken this way on the radio):

boh-na f-eye-dees

Here is a common mispronunciation, which lacks all nuance:

bah-na f-eye-ds

The latter just seems uninformed. Not willfully ignorant, just uninformed. So here you go: try it one more time.

In January of 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump took a trip to the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University to burnish his evangelical Christian bona fides.Journal Sentinel

Umm …

Bona fide

If you read our post on ‘bona fides‘ you might think we were card-carrying members of the Latin Preservation Society. Well, bona fide will throw water on that hot theory.

The term bona fide has become thoroughly Americanized. It means ‘genuine’ or ‘authentic’ or ‘qualified’, and it is almost always pronounced this way:

bah-na f-eye-d

Sometimes the ‘o’ is long:

boh-na f-eye-d

Almost never is it pronounced as originally intended:

boh-na fee-day

Why not the latter? It has been trampled underfoot, a fate that might await many of the words in this blog.

These benefits result in worldwide tax savings for a U.S. citizen only if the individual is a bona fide permanent resident of the island under U.S. tax rules. An individual must satisfy stringent requirements, which require sustained physical presence on the island, to qualify as a bona fide resident of either the USVI or Puerto Rico. – JD Supra

What if you said “boh-na fee-day permanent resident”? It sounds like a legal reference, and perhaps it is intended as one. It no longer sounds natural; we have been worn down.

Try using the thoroughly Latin pronunciation here:

The band’s first album, 1985’s We Care a Lot, was issued on the indie label Mordam and generated a bona fide hit with the anti-anthem title track. – Cleveland Scene

It just doesn’t work. You would sound like an Italian journalist new to the staff (nothing wrong with that), even though you had lived in Cleveland all your life. No, it simply has to be bah-na f-eye-d. Otherwise the Charlatans would stumble over the phrase below:

Oh, the old man gathers up his suitcase,
And heads for the sun,
Me, I’m looking for some bona fide treasure
And its dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb – The Charlatans

And that would be dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb.