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I read on https://english.stackexchange.com/a/117978/17712

pp stands for pages

Why is the abbreviation pp used to mean pages?


I tried to search for the answer, but couldn't find the answer yet. I looked at:

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  • Historical questions about "why" the language is the way it is are outside the scope of this website. We answer questions about usage. English Stack Exchange is the place for that.
    – gotube
    Aug 15, 2021 at 1:12
  • @gotube There is an etymology tag with over 100 questions. Aug 15, 2021 at 1:17
  • The page for the tag itself says at the top to ask on English Stack Exchange instead. If you've got a decent reason for asking it here, then add it to your question and tag me back, and I'll happily retract my downvote.
    – gotube
    Aug 15, 2021 at 1:21
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    @gotube done, thanks Aug 15, 2021 at 1:33
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    I see 2 VTC "This question should include more details than have been provided here." Please tell me what I should add. Aug 15, 2021 at 18:14

1 Answer 1

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'pp' as a plural abbreviation for 'pages' dates back just about to the dawn of printing I believe. Similarly 'ff' was used for 'folios' (a folio is both sides of a page, front and back, and was common at a time when people would only number folios and then say 'folio 10, recto (front)' or 'folio 10, verso (back)'.

That probably explains the logic of why it was 'pp' and not 'ps' or 'pgs'. The authors/scribes at this time thought primarily in Latin, and they were saying 'pagina' not 'page'. The plural of 'pagina' is 'paginae', but I guess somebody somewhere considered 'pp' and 'ff' a less confusing system than 'pe' (for paginae) and 'fi' (for folii). (Since Latin plural ending differing depending on both the declension and case, adding any single letter to indicate plural would probably be confusing).

Moreover the highly familiar but elaborate abbreviation system used by scribes at that time (and in some ways carried over into early printed books) had a convention of abbreviating a wide variety of Latin plurals to (eg) pp or ff.

So, 'ff' could be 'felices', 'filii', 'fratres'. 'pp' could be 'patres', 'pedes', 'pepetuum', 'provinciae' and much more ... almost at the whim of the scribe.

In other words, in the context of a Latin document, 'pp' would have been the least ambiguous way of indicating 'pages' via an abbreviation. It stuck, and here we are.

(Source for abbreviations is C. T. Martin, The Record Interpreter, London 1910, and Capelli's Dizionario Di Abbreviature if you want a detailed look at the full horror of medieval scribal abbreviations.)

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