Questions tagged [legalese]

Questions about the strange language of legalese. Consider asking on law.stackexchange.com if your question focuses on the legal interpretation of some term or phrase.

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74
votes
8answers
32k 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?
61
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8answers
6k 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, ...
32
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12answers
17k 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 ...
27
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19answers
24k views

A verb that means “to prove someone is guilty of a crime”

Preface: I don't think there is a single-word (verb) that expresses the concept I am asking for, in which case I'd settle for the least ambiguous and most common phrase or idiom that describes the ...
23
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5answers
16k views

What's the difference between scam and fraud?

I hear a lot about Sim lim scam but not Sim Lim fraud, as in this story. (Sim Lim is a shopping centre in Singapore.) So basically a customer signed a very deceptive contract and lost a lot of money. ...
22
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5answers
19k 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 ...
20
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6answers
5k views

What do you call it when a scam artist modifies the contents of a document to deceive other people?

Some unscrupulous scam artist decided to modify a contract that had my signature on it, to make it appear that I had agreed to things I did not. Here is a simplified example: Bob agrees to pay Fred ...
19
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14answers
5k views

Someone who is granted access to information but not expected to read it

I'm looking for word for a person who handles records, but isn't expected to read them. I'm creating a list of positions within an organization who should have access to certain records. Alongside ...
19
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4answers
575 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 ...
18
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7answers
41k views

Is there a difference between “innocent” and “not guilty”?

I have always thought the antonym of "guilty" is "innocent", but apparently it's just "not guilty". Even juries seem to agree. But why? Aren't they antonyms? Or is there a subtlety I'm missing here?
15
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10answers
15k 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, ...
15
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7answers
3k views

What do you call a question that is meant to make you look bad? [closed]

What is it called when you are asked a question that has nothing to do with the subject at hand and is sometimes meant to make you look bad? I think it is a legal term used in a court setting.
14
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6answers
39k 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 ...
13
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4answers
35k 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.
13
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7answers
229k 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 ...
12
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6answers
2k 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 ...
11
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4answers
3k views

Is there a specific word describing black boxes covering confidential data on papers being prepared for public access?

Is there a specific word in English describing black boxes covering confidential data on papers being prepared for public access? Here is an example of such a paper
11
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2answers
1k views

Is the language used in patents archaic or intentionally obtuse? [closed]

Example: [f] moving said second cart to said proximate end of said scanning device so that said trays in said second cart be passed through said scanning device at said proximate end. Is the ...
11
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8answers
54k 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 ...
11
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4answers
787 views

Does the word “and” always mean a logical (boolean) operation?

For a simple phrase like "macaroni and cheese" it's clear you want both macaroni and cheese, not one or the other. But as more and more words are added, I've noticed a tendency to begin to read "and" ...
11
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6answers
2k 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.   ...
10
votes
2answers
388 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 ...
9
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5answers
545 views

What alternate terminology would be most appropriate for loss of potential profit (versus loss of merchandise) excluding “theft” and “stealing”?

In a recent discussion on another SE forum a user (@JAB) complained that "theft" was an inappropriate descriptor for software piracy. His exact statement was: I've never found "stealing" to be an ...
8
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4answers
28k 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 ...
8
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4answers
19k views

Is the § character recognizable as an icon for legal matters in English speaking countries?

I need a symbol in my navigation to represent the legal portions of a web application (disclaimer, imprint, and so on). I thought that it would be appropriate to use the § character; my customer ...
8
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3answers
2k views

Using “Acts of God” in legal term

I wonder why on a lot of legal term in English country using "Acts of God" as an events outside human control? As an Indonesian, I think everything that happens in this world is an act of God. And it ...
8
votes
3answers
582 views

Term for law that is not practiced in reality

I am looking for a (legal) term that describes the following concept: A law that should describe the reality of a situation, but in practice, since the law is not enforced, reality is not so. One ...
8
votes
2answers
288 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
42k 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
4k views

What is the act of breaking a pen nib after signing a death sentence called?

I have noticed that every time a judge sentences someone to death sentence, he breaks his pen’s nib after signing his order. So what is this act called? I mean any specific term or single word for ...
7
votes
0answers
107 views

How did 'consideration' shift to signify grounds and the act of deliberation, then inducer of a grant or promise?

Frederick Pollock. Principles Of Contract. (1902) p. 170. p. 220/400 here.         The name of Consideration appears only about the beginning of the sixteenth century, and we do ...
6
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4answers
2k views

A Specific Word for a Replacement of a Lost Document?

I'm looking for a specific (legal) term to refer to a replica document that's issued by the relevant officials as a replacement for a legal document that one has lost. I assume that replica is not ...
6
votes
3answers
693 views

Word to describe a company that pretends to do the right thing? [closed]

What word(s) would you use to describe a business or company that pretends to do the legal/right thing regarding employees, but in reality the company does not care. This issue pertains to legalities ...
6
votes
5answers
92k 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? ...
6
votes
2answers
2k 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 as ...
6
votes
2answers
682 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
134 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
2answers
122 views

What's the etymology of sound' in 'sound in damages, tort, contract'?

OED: 6. to sound in damages: in legal use, to be concerned only with damages. Also to sound in tort, to sound in contract, etc. 1780 M. Madan Thelyphthora II. 153 There is not one [...
6
votes
3answers
4k views

“The office of the President” or “the office of President”?

I know this one by heart: it is Section 1 of the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It sounds perfectly natural to me. I don't know why, though. Here: Section 1. No person shall be elected ...
5
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5answers
952 views

Term describing self-detriment for personal gain

What is a word that describes harming or reducing oneself in order to achieve financial or social gain? Examples A man purposely jumps in front of a relatively slow-moving car in order to eventually ...
5
votes
5answers
492 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
3answers
112 views

Looking for a word meaning “attempt” or “bid” or “campaign” specifically in a legal context

If there is an exact outcome I am hoping for, in specifically a legal context, but where I'm not necessarily either suing or defending or appealing or prosecuting (but where I am devoting resources ...
5
votes
1answer
2k 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
281 views

How to best describe: all law, primary/secondary legislation, etc - with “laws”, “acts”, “statutes”, “ordinances”, etc? [closed]

I'm writing software that needs to have the following categories of law for a non-English speaking country: (a) all laws (b) primary country-wide legislation (passed by parliament) (c) secondary ...
5
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
37k views

“Not… neither” or “not… nor”

In formal English (legal UK English to be specific), should one use: "Body A does not give any warranty as to [...] to body B, nor does body B give any such warranty to body C" or "Body A does not ...
4
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6answers
5k views

A suitable word for seizing a property

When a court orders for taking control of a property or real estate by the government in exchange of money, what is the best word for the court action? For example: The court maintains that his ...
4
votes
4answers
357 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 flashing ...
4
votes
2answers
199 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
2answers
134 views

Meaning of “release” in the given context

Here is a sentence from an employment agreement: "In the case of any accident or any other event occurring during the period of employment, the worker releases any and all actions or expenses that ...