Of legal language and legal sentences
Voice of The Reader

Of legal language and legal sentences

January 16, 2020


In the article “Why only lawyers can understand legal language” (Star of Mysore dated Jan.13), the authors have beautifully analysed the evolution of the legal language, circumstances leading to use of such language giving examples. It is very impressive.

In a lighter vein I am reminded of what Stephen Leacock, the humorist, has written about legal sentences in his book “How to write.”

“Legal sentences must of necessity be long. A lawyer dare not stop. If he ever seems to have brought a thing to a complete end then somebody may discover something left unsaid and invalidate everything. The Tenth Commandment is able to say, Thou shalt not steal. A lawyer has to say, Subject always to the Provision of clauses 8-20 below thou shalt not steal except as here-in after provided. Even at that the lawyer would have to take another look at the word steal, and scratch it out in favour of, Thou shalt not steal, pilfer, rob, appropriate, hook, swipe, or in any other way obtain unlawful possession of anything. Then the word thing would start him off again to write — thing, object, commodity, chattel, property…”

– K.V. Srinivas, Saraswathipuram, 14.1.2020

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