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The injunctions (and super-injunctions) that occasionally make the headlines restrain a defendant from doing something. It is fairly clear (e.g. OED) that the word was formed as a noun from enjoin in the sense of stop, and has various uses. There is, however, a continuing need for a specific verb in the legal context (The Court granted an injunction to stop him doing it/ he was ???ed from doing it). It is increasingly common for this verb (both in the media and in court) to be "injunct", which is in the dictionary, but only as 'colloq.'. It seems to me that a word that is colloquial (and very ugly) has no place in a courtroom; but since most of the people who use it are High Court judges, I thought I'd see whether fellow EL&Uers agree with me. Is it worth campaigning to restore enjoin here, or indeed is there a better replacement?

TL;DR Injunct is an illegitimate back-formation from injunction, which actually came from enjoin. Is it too late to stop this word polluting our beautiful language?

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I know when and where it's used: first use in the OED is 1894 ('the man was injuncted from calling a play ‘The Fatal Card’, westminster Gazette) and the last was yesterday, Floyd J, Royal Courts of Justice. What I am asking is "Should it be used?" If your answer is 'anything that is used is good English', fair enough (and we could simply replace this site with a link to Google Ngrams). But in this case (at least), finding whether it is used is entirely unhelpful. – TimLymington Aug 26 '11 at 15:39

I think it's far too late to stop the "illegitimate back-formation" injunct from being used as a word. The question of whether/when others will accept this usage is subjective, but for myself I have no problem with it and I think OP's position is peevish.

This NGram shows over a thousand written instances from the second half of the last century, with usage apparently increasing. I would expect there to be far more this century, given the flurry of media interest in legal injunctions over recent years. .

I assume the reason @Mr. Shiny and New found no instances of the verb form was because he searched for the present participle/infinitive injunct. Many speakers will sense that there is/was something "not quite right" about the usage, so it's no surprise they still shy away from the bare uninflected form. In any case, most references would naturally be in the past tense, since there's not much reason to write about the activity until it's actually happened.

OP seems to imply that the "purity" of English is somehow defiled by this neologism. Presumably because he has qualms about the "parentage", but I feel this gives the word something of the vibrance and vigour of a mongrel dog.

It will probably remain firmly entrenched in the semantic space surrounding legal injunctions, a term we're bound to be familiar with anyway. So we have an excellent new word available to cover exactly that context, that requires no effort at all to "learn". I only wish all neoligisms were this easy to assimulate into, and thus enrich, our beautiful ever-changing language.

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Hey, +1 for you. Your evidence is better than mine. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 26 '11 at 15:00

Language changes. That's why we're not speaking Old English anymore. Perhaps the people using "to injunct" feel it's clearer and more natural than "to enjoin".

That said, Google ngrams shows the following:

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There appears to be a decline in the use of "enjoin" overall, but no use of "injunct" at all. I can't find any uses of "injunct" in the Corpus of Contemporary American English either. So I think it's safe to say that "injunct" will be considered an error for some time.

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Sorry, but I have to disagree (I never took you for a prescriptivist!). People would really not wish to say that a judge enjoined people to observe an injunction, since in common parlance to enjoin has considerable overtones of earnest encouragement/chivying or even abject pleading. Judges don't ask for compliance, they demand it. – FumbleFingers Aug 26 '11 at 14:11
I didn't think I was being prescriptivist in this answer. I merely pointed out that I couldn't find any evidence of people writing "injunct", which suggests that it's "not a word". – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 26 '11 at 14:58
We all have our own definition of "not a word", I guess. If thousands of people use it, and millions of people understand it, I think there are distinct parallels with how you decide what to call something that walks, swims, and quacks like a duck. Me, I reckon that's a duck, and this is a word. – FumbleFingers Aug 26 '11 at 15:28
@FumbleFingers: I think you probably know what I mean by "not a word", as in, the evidence I collected suggest that it's not being used in any appreciable sense, and thus would be considered wrong (though comprehensible) or non-standard (i.e. colloquial). Your answer to this post suggests that it is being used somewhat, but only in certain forms, which suggests that its status as a full-blown, fully acceptable English word is still growing. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 26 '11 at 16:55
I'm not sure I do know. I assume it's probably either "Not in my dictionary", or "Erroreous back-formation which should be discouraged". In light of your first sentence I'd expect the former, but your last sentence seems to support OP's position which is clearly the latter. I think I've given a reasonable summary in my Answer and comments to yours as to what I mean by "a word", but I know this is an area of great uncertainty and debate for many linguistic forms around the margins of acceptability. – FumbleFingers Aug 26 '11 at 18:43

I've just seen the headline Michigan Federal District Court Preliminarily Enjoins Ban On Health Benefits to Domestic Partners - Claiming Title of First to Cite Windsor and took it to mean exactly the opposite of what the story underneath actually said. I took "enjoin" to mean something like "enforce" - when, in fact, the court had issued an interlocutory injunction against the ban. "Injunct" would have made it perfectly clear what was going on.

But then I'm English; and "injunct" is the word I would use myself. (In Scotland the term would be "interim interdict".)

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"To enjoin" sounds less imperative than "to injunct". I am not a native speaker but I can feel the difference between these two verbs because of their latin roots.

In French, we face the same issue: "enjoindre" exists as a verb, and "injonction" is supposed to be the noun.

However, as a Swiss lawyer, I could validly argue that the two words have a different reach: who does not comply with an injuction, will be punished; whereas, who does not comply with what is enjoined to do (or not do), will lose an advantage. Under Swiss law, this distinction is clearly drawn as it comes to the notions of "obligation" and "incombance". See for instance.

More flexibility and creativity, especially where it is beneficial in terms of exactness, is something to welcome in my opinion. Let's verbalise and nominalise!

Anyway, the revolution is on the go:


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