Questions about the strange language of legalese.

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56
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8answers
11k views

What's the difference between “null” and “void” in legal language?

In the legal term "null and void," what is the difference between null and void? Why not just use one of the two terms? And can either term be used without the other?
47
votes
7answers
3k views

Why does legal English continue to remain archaic?

Perhaps this is a question for Law.SE if one exists, but I am asking here as there are other nice questions on English history. There is some historical development account presented in Wikipedia, ...
22
votes
9answers
5k views

Do the words “jail” and “prison” refer to different things?

In everyday speech, the terms jail and prison are used interchangeably in many situations. However, my understanding is that, at least in the US, they actually refer to slightly different things. For ...
16
votes
4answers
451 views

Can this convoluted bit of “tax speak” be deciphered into plain English?

I am trying to understand a paragraph from a tax manual, and for the life of me I can't seem to understand what they are saying. The paragraph in question is from page 4 of publication 4681 The ...
15
votes
4answers
3k views

Why are numbers usually written twice in contracts?

In contracts numbers are usually written twice: in numerical and literal form. I understand the vast majority of text in a typical contract can be safely deleted without impacting the core message ...
11
votes
2answers
269 views

What's the most pedantically correct way to reference sectioned and numbered rules aloud?

I am a roller derby announcer. An important part of my job is to explain the rules of roller derby to the fans. The rules of modern roller derby are promulgated by the Women's Flat Track Derby ...
10
votes
8answers
3k views

What is the word for something that is punishable by law, but is not a crime?

What is the legal term in English for something that is punishable by law, but is not a crime (i.e. does not affect your criminal record)? I mean all the lesser (than crime) violations of the law, ...
10
votes
5answers
639 views

Why does legal English sometimes repeat the antecedent noun after “which”?

Here's a standard English sentence: The folder which is missing from the principal's office contained the answers to today's exam. (Separate question, discussed elsewhere I'm sure, whether it ...
10
votes
6answers
1k views

Does “oath” have an implied religious connotation?

In Singapore you don't have to swear an oath in court if you are of certain religions. Instead you affirm that you're speaking the truth: Circumstances under which affirmation may be made 16.   ...
8
votes
4answers
4k views

What's the equivalent phrase in the UK for “I plead the fifth”?

In the United States, a person under examination on the witness stand may "plead the fifth" to avoid self-incrimination. In other words, a person asserts his or her Fifth Amendment right. Citizens of ...
8
votes
2answers
145 views

Non-union-affiliated shop steward

I'm looking for an English word or short phrase to convey a meaning which is similar to “union representative” or “shop steward”, except that the person in question is not (necessarily) associated ...
6
votes
3answers
10k views

What's the word Copyright and `(C)' mean?

In the lines: Copyright (C) 1994 Tom Copyright (C) 1995, 1996 Cruise Copyright (C) 1997, 1998 Louis Here, what's the original meaning of "Copyright"? And why the mark "(C)"? And, what is ...
6
votes
2answers
546 views

Indian legal documents

I am a resident of India. I have never been able to understand the language used in the legal documents here. Below is an example from an agreement to sell an apartment. Herein after referred to ...
6
votes
7answers
44k views

What is the proper usage of the phrase “due diligence”?

I have encountered the phrase "due diligence" in the business world. The usage examples I have seen (mostly emails) cannot exactly be considered grammatical canon. An internet search produces ...
6
votes
2answers
250 views

Official term for “at large” or “on the loose”

When a convict is illegally out of prison – either escaped, or didn't get to the prison after his conviction – what is the right expression to describe this? I want the term that is used in ...
6
votes
2answers
86 views

What is the word for the kind of thing that legal laws can apply to?

I know this question title is awkward, so let me explain by example: The word "law" means different things in different contexts. You have the "laws of natural science" (e.g. the law of energy ...
6
votes
4answers
3k views

“Shall” and “will” in legal requirements

What is the implication of using shall versus will in writing a specification document? For instance, lets say I have the paragraph, "upon by all parties involved." All information between ...
6
votes
5answers
175 views

Word for biased interpretation of the law?

When a law is misinterpreted and enforced by a "power class" in a social hierarchy, and the stated justification has no basis even in the laws to which to the justification makes reference, is there a ...
5
votes
4answers
11k views

Does 'should' imply an unquestionable command?

My question is prompted by a question on the programmers.stackexchange: This may be a duplicate of another question here on english.stackechange, but the answers given to that question did not ...
4
votes
5answers
7k views

Why do courts use “What say you?”

... instead of "What do you say?" I am not sure if "What say you?" is even grammatically correct.
4
votes
2answers
164 views

Referring to “the assertion made in the US Supreme Court's majority opinion”

I want to refer to an assertion that is part of the written majority opinion in a particular case, put forth by the US Supreme Court's majority for that case. Question spurred by my attempts to do ...
4
votes
4answers
199 views

Is the usage of the idiom “Move Over” in this passage clear on what side to move over to?

Consider this passage in the Georgia DDS 2010 Driver’s Manual: on page 40: The Georgia Move-Over Law requires drivers to move over one lane when possible if an emergency vehicle with ...
4
votes
4answers
234 views

What is the adjective for “supersedure” or “primacy”?

Is there an adjective that can express the concept of a law that supersedes other laws? I would prefer a single adjective that has legal connotations, although a present participle will suffice. The ...
4
votes
1answer
290 views

Is there such a thing as “Injective Relief” (as a legal term)?

I was recently given a nondisclosure agreement to sign. On the form it stated that the company may seek "injective relief" as needed in order to enforce the agreement. Now, I'm quite familiar with ...
4
votes
3answers
977 views

“Oldest son or oldest daughter”

Contract states Upon the death of the stockholder his interest shall pass to the oldest son or oldest daughter. I am the oldest daughter and have a younger brother. Who gets the interest?
4
votes
1answer
790 views

What are the differences among ‘Rules’, ‘Standing Rules’, and ‘Bylaw’?

Recently I was given a document titled Standing Rules of an English speaking club of a local community, which was written in English, and asked to study the contents. I wondered what difference ...
4
votes
2answers
52 views

Why is common law referred to as “at common law”?

While researching the differences between modern penal codes with common law I noticed that in many places it is written as at common law. An example is, "A crime at common law defined as unlawful ...
4
votes
3answers
327 views

Payment to be due within three months “of” that meeting

Does the word "of" in the context of an established point in time refer to before or after that established point in time?
3
votes
5answers
8k views

What word describes a person who signs an official document?

For example, I have a document that has the signatures of three people, all public servants: a tax collector,an inspector, and a school principal. How could I collectively describe these three people? ...
3
votes
4answers
2k views

Your signature vs your mark

Is there a difference between your 'signature' and your 'mark'? One of the comments on this post on Bruce Schneier's blog claims there is: This might be out of date in these days of 100% literacy ...
3
votes
3answers
236 views

Clear way of saying that one set of rules overrides another, if contradicts [closed]

I'm working on updating a constitution, but as it is for a non-incorporated entity it doesn't have to be legally perfect. I'm much more interested in clarity. Here is what I have at the moment: ...
3
votes
1answer
135 views

What is the origin of “fine” meaning a legal penalty? [closed]

What is the origin of the word fine meaning a legal penalty involving the payment of a sum of money?
3
votes
1answer
249 views

Situation when a sentence can't be appealed

After a specific period, or if the appeal is found invalid for any reason, or was issued at the final instance court, a sentence becomes valid and is to be executed. I found the translation of the ...
2
votes
2answers
548 views

Reason for Subject-Verb Inversion: Only in cases where A is B, shall the Company do X [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Sentences using: [something] + have + they subject-auxiliary inversions not associated with questions In the following, why does subject-verb inversion occur? Is it ...
2
votes
4answers
562 views

How is an “assault” different from “battery” in everyday English?

In legal parlance, the word "assault" historically means an attempted battery (battery being defined as below) or an intentional frightening of another person. No contact is necessary. On the other ...
2
votes
2answers
3k views

“In all events” as opposite of “in no event”

I was recently trying to explain to a non-native English speaking colleague the meaning of the phrase "in no event" which often appears in legal documents. This produced the question: "Can you say 'in ...
2
votes
6answers
272 views

Is the “will” in “can and will” necessary?

Anyone who's ever seen much American film or television has heard some variation of the following sentences countless times: You have the right to remain silent. If you choose to give up that ...
2
votes
2answers
171 views

Help in demystifying the meaning of 2 sentences from an academic journal article!

1.) This is basically an english translation of a section of a Hittite Law code: "If someone wounds a man and makes him ill, he shall nurse him. He shall give a man in his place who will work in his ...
2
votes
1answer
1k views

“In contemplation of”

I came across this phrase in an legal case relating to an ante-nuptial agreement, and was wondering what it meant exactly. The sentence is: Agreement concluded prior to and in contemplation of ...
2
votes
1answer
54 views

Intuition - “to enjoin”

Would someone please explain the etymology or the intuition behind this verb? I'm aware of the etymological fallacy, but still want to intuit its definition.
2
votes
2answers
394 views

Are commas considered superfluous in legal documents?

I'm in the process of purchasing a house and reading through the contract, I can't find a single instance of the comma. (As if legalese wasn't hard enough to read already!) This includes the ...
2
votes
1answer
289 views

What do “take ground” and “vested in” mean in this context?

Here is an extract from the headnote of a case [1] I am trying to understand: The defendants, who were wharfingers, agreed with the plaintiff for a consideration to allow his vessel to discharge ...
2
votes
3answers
67 views

Placing the object of an infinitive before it instead of after it

At the beginning of 1807, based on information gathered from Burr’s correspondence allegedly showing that he had begun preparations for a large-scale military expedition, the former vice ...
2
votes
3answers
4k views

John Smith Esquire v. John Smith Attorney v. John Smith Attorney at Law

Which is the most proper way to sign a letter? John Smith Esquire, John Smith Attorney or John Smith Attorney at Law. Besides, does each of those categories denote different levels of engagement in ...
2
votes
1answer
112 views

What’s difference between “in” + VERBing compared with just plain VERBing alone?

In the following example from page 145 of Frederick Schauer’s Thinking Like a Lawyer, what would differ if the sentence were to start with Being instead of In being? In being an empirical ...
2
votes
1answer
48 views

Adjectives to describe a legal system that has a number of limitations

Im finding an adjective describing a judicial system that has many limitations like the system has lax regulations and sanctions are not harsh enough. Looking forward to your replies.
2
votes
1answer
27 views

state the reach of something against something as doing something

I encountered this sentence while translating a lawsuit and now I'm quite confused about what it intends to say: Court stated the reach of the per se rule against tie-ins under 1 of the Sherman Act ...
2
votes
1answer
81 views

noun-modifier word order in 'date certain'

One will occasionally hear the term date certain (meaning 'a fixed, definite date') in legal or business contexts. e.g., The Courts have continually emphasized that the Act demands primary NAAQS ...
2
votes
1answer
553 views

Did English use to have capitalization rules similar to German's current rules? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Capitalisation of nouns in English in the 17th and 18th centuries I was looking up an article of the constitution of the United States of America, and I noticed in the ...
2
votes
0answers
67 views

What’s the difference between “cite” and “cite to”? [closed]

From page 69 of Frederick Shauer’s Thinking Like a Lawyer: A New York state court may cite to a case decided in Vermont . . . The courts are not even required to cite to these “authorities,” let ...