The Lingua Franca

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27 Responses

  1. anon says:

    Lingua franca?

  2. anon says:

    I suppose it’s more a term of art than the examples you gave, but it’s one that, in my experience, professors don’t explain very well: equity/equitable.

    The distinction between “legal claims” and “equitable claims” confused me almost until the day I graduated. “How can they not be ‘legal’ if we’re in court?”

    Then, of course, there are all the latinisms. Not the maxims, but the quick throw-aways like a fortiori.

  3. Cathy says:

    Normative. Plenary. Especially plenary, since I still tend to forget what it means and how to use it…

  4. anon says:

    Prophylactic

  5. Respondeat superior says:

    I would have said dispositive. That is so true.

    Professors often use philosophy words they assume everyone knows, like hypostasize and instantiate. They often classify their own perspectives to students lacking the depth of knowledge to understand it. One example is a professor of mine who called himself a “Hartian positivist”. If I hadn’t just taken a Jurisprudence class the prior semester, I would have had no idea what he meant.

    The canons of construction are in Latin and hard to get right when they arise in cases unless you take a statutory construction or legislation class, which generally occurs post-1L.

  6. DB says:

    Decedent=dead person

  7. Matt says:

    Prophylactic? That’s an old name for a condom, isn’t it? ;)

  8. arthur says:

    “scienter”. I’ve been practicing in teh securities fraud for 15 years and still don’t get it.

  9. Michael Led says:

    Under Illinois law, little of what we file during motion practice is recognized as a pleading. This technicality tends to become an issue when we file an objection and/or motion to strike the motion of a weak opponent.

  10. Michael Lee says:

    Under Illinois law, little of what we file during motion practice is recognized as a pleading. This technicality tends to become an issue when we file an objection and/or motion to strike the motion of a weak opponent.

  11. A Northwestern Law Student says:

    I’ve read your definition of dispositive three times, and I still don’t know whether we understand it the same way. Evidence that is dispositive doesn’t just “tend” to answer a question, it *does* answer the and resolve (dispose of) the issue. Maybe that’s what you meant.

    I would also throw onto the list the distinctions between legal/jurisprudential/juristic/jural. And “cause of action,” which a lot of people conflate (!) with “action.” “Epistemological” gets thrown around a fair amount too.

  12. Eric says:

    Under Illinois law, little of what we file during motion practice is recognized as a pleading. This technicality tends to become an issue when we file an objection and/or motion to strike the motion of a weak opponent.

    Oy veh. The lexicon of state court practice can really be a nightmare. Most of my practice experience was in Pennsylvania, where the rules of civil procedure seem to have been written by Charles Dickens as background material for Bleak House. The clerk is the “prothonotary”; a 12(b)(6)-type motion is a “preliminary objection”; and there’s something called a “praecipe for a rule to show cause”, the precise meaning of which still eludes me.

  13. SC says:

    A couple that gave me fits for a while: prudential (as used in Con Law and a Fed Courts class) and doctrinal (as constantly used by my torts prof).

  14. U of C says:

    Normative and descriptive (used as opposites)

    All the economics jargon

  15. humblelawstudent says:

    “Impracticable” It took me a year to realize the professor wasn’t actually saying “impractical”

  16. nyu says:

    law of “accession” instead of “accretion”

  17. AJ says:

    A property prof of mine used to have some fun at the class’s expense by using the term “demised premises” and then asking students what they thought it meant. Students always guessed something like “uninhabitable,” when in fact it simply means “rented.”

    (As an aside, it’s always irked me that MS Word doesn’t recognize the existence of the word “dispositive.”)

  18. NE2d says:

    I am utterly baffled by “consideration.” “Outcome determinative” is almost as bad.

    On a related note, “probate,” “probative,” and “probation” all mean seemingly completely different things. Are the concepts related in some way I don’t see?

  19. Archit says:

    apposite

  20. Jeff Lipshaw says:

    I like “constructive” myself. I teach that whenever you hear a law professor say “constructive” the next word is a lie.

    Of course, that means that a constructive comment is not a helpful one, but one you didn’t make, and are deemed to have made anyway.

    I scratched my head over the writ of trespass for a long time, particularly trespass on the case. As opposed to trespass quaere clausum fregit, which was always perfectly clear to me.

    I hope this has been constructive.

  21. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    I think many of the commenters here would enjoy Peter M. Tiersma’s Legal Language (1999), as well as much of the material at his webpage LANGUAGEandLAW.org: http://www.languageandlaw.org/

  22. interested reader says:

    I think the common element in “probate,” “probative,” and “probation” is the idea of proving something. “Probate” is designed to prove the the validity of wills, probative means “tending to prove,” and “probation” tests a person’s ability to change his or her conduct.

  23. interested reader says:

    I think the common element in “probate,” “probative,” and “probation” is the idea of proving something. “Probate” is designed to prove the the validity of wills, probative means “tending to prove,” and “probation” tests a person’s ability to change his or her conduct.

  24. Nate Oman says:

    I personally like the word “hypothecate,” which I try to use no only in my secured transactions class (which after all is mainly about hypothecation) but also at dinner parties, neighborhood BBQs, etc. Of course when I do, my wife generally gives me a hard elbow jab to the ribs.

    Elizabeth Warren at HLS reputedly begins each semester of her contracts class by — literally before saying anything else — asking some poor 1L, “What is an assumpsit?”

  25. Publius says:

    It’s “reckless and wanton” conduct, not “reckless and Won Ton” as one student memorably put it in 1L Torts.

  26. Publius says:

    I’ve also always been fond of the pleading called a “Suggestion of Death”, and thought it would be a good title for my unpublished novel, but someone beat me to it.

    http://www.amazon.com/Suggestion-Death-Marianne-Wesson/dp/0671035592