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Wednesday 14 November 2012

Nuts and Bolts: Forensic Linguistics 2.

This is a true and correct account of the fit and proper language  which aids and abets lawyers in making free and clear wills and testaments.

Yep. You noticed: I keep on saying everything twice.


Because it's what lawyers do, and so it's part of forensic linguistics.

The respectable reason for saying things twice is that when, in the 1100s, the French-speaking Normans started making laws in made a point of using both the English and French words for things to remove all possibility of doubt.

When you look at various legal phrases such as fit (English) and proper (French), keep (E) and maintain (F) and true (E) and correct (Latin) then this does look quite convincing, too.

On the other hand, when you look at phrases like covenant and agree (both French) and force and effect (both English) then the theory does fall down rather.

So, why all the extra words?

Well, for one thing it makes legal language look complicated. This is good at keeping ordinary people from understanding it, which is good for keeping lawyers in employment.

It makes the lawyers look clever, too.

Another reason seems to be that saying everything twice became a bit of a habit for them.

Lastly, and perhaps not least importantly, in former times (and perhaps even now) lawyers used to get paid by the word.

So that explains it all, doesn't it. 

And so I can now cease and desist.

Word To Use Today: lawyer. This word comes from the Old English lagu. There's a related Icelandic word lög, which means things law or things laid down.

1 comment:

  1. Or as Lewis Carroll so cleverly put it: What I tell you three times is true!


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