Will Baude at Crescat Sententia introduces a post on Bolling v Sharpe, “a school segregation case that—like Brown—turns 50 today,” with a wonderful quote from a Stoppard play, Professional Foul. The scene “takes place during a presentation at a conference of philosophers in Prague. An English gentleman is speaking about the philosophy of language, and interpreters are gamely translating his remarks into French, German, and Czech for the benefit of the non-English-speaking philosophers present.”

Stone: ‘You eat well,’ says Mary to John. ‘You cook well,’ says John to Mary. We know that when Mary says, ‘You eat well’, she does not mean that John eats skilfully. Just as we know that when John says, ‘You cook well’, he does not mean Mary cooks abundantly. . . No problems there. But I ask you to imagine a competition when what is being judged is table manners. (Insert French interpreter’s box—interior.)
Interpreter: … bonne tenue à table
Stone: John enters this competition and afterwards Mary says, ‘Well, you certainly ate well!’ Now Mary seems to be saying that John ate skilfully—with refinement. And again, I ask you to imagine a competition where the amount of food eaten is taken into account along with refinement of table manners. Now Mary says to John, ‘Well, you didn’t eat very well, but at least you ate well.’
Interpreter: Alors, vous n’avez pas bien mangé … mais … (All Interpreters baffled by this.)

Incidentally, in the course of researching the correct manner of citing legal cases (italics, except for the v) I ran across the following admonition from an Australian site:

In speech the “v” is never said as “vee” or “versus” In a civil action the “v” is said as “and” while in criminal cases “v” is said as “against”.

Does anybody know if this is also true in the American legal system?


  1. It’s not.
    At least, all the professors I’ve had to date have said “Bolling Vee Sharpe” or “Bolling versus sharpe” with no sense of shame and nobody even considering correcting them.
    Thanks for the link.

  2. And thank you for the info!

  3. It’s true of the English system, but you probably knew that.

  4. I remember that Colin Powell, during his infamous presentation to the UN Security Council, said something like ‘they are inspectors, not detectives’ (referring to UN weapons inspectors). Now, I think that in French that would come out as ‘ils sont des inspecteurs, non des inspecteurs’, so I wonder if the French interpreter was similarly baffled.

  5. I think you’d use policiers.

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