Wednesday, August 11, 2010

But your honor, I'm an orphan!

Researching language books, I wikiwandered to an essay by Judge Alex Kozinski and Eugene Volokh from the Yale Law Journal, published in 1993:

Lawsuit, Shmawsuit

Searching through the LEXIS legal opinions database reveals that "chutzpah" (sometimes also spelled "chutzpa," "hutzpah," or "hutzpa") has appeared in 231 reported court decisions. Curiously, all but eleven of them have been filed since 1980. There are two possible explanations for this. One is that during the last 21 years there has been a dramatic increase in the actual amount of chutzpah in the United States--or at least in the U.S. legal system. This explanation seems possible, but unlikely.

The more likely explanation is that Yiddish is quickly supplanting Latin as the spice in American legal argot. As recently as 1970, a federal court not only felt the need to define "bagels"; it misdefined them, calling them "hard rolls shaped like doughnuts." All right-thinking people know good bagels are rather soft. (Day-old bagels are rather hard, but right-thinking people do not eat day-olds, even when they are only 10 cents each.) We’ve come a long way since then.

I've often thought that if the ladies and I move out of this area we'll be easy to finger as tri-staters by how much Yiddish we use. Given how many legal Yiddish sightings come from Georgia, I'm reconsidering.

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