PRONOUNCING DICTIONARY OF THE SUPREME COURT.

Marc Adler (of adlerpacific.com), who comments here as marc, sent me a link to Volokh’s post A Pronouncing Dictionary of the Supreme Court of the United States, which begins:

Gene Fidell (Yale Law School) and some of his students are putting together an article tentatively titled A Pronouncing Dictionary of the Supreme Court of the United States, which will basically help people know the standard ways of pronouncing Supreme Court case names (such as City of Boerne v. Flores and Gentile v. State Bar of Nevada). They have a list of cases to include, but if you have some suggestions, please post them in the comments. The requirements, of course, are that (1) it’s not obvious what the standard pronunciation is, and (2) the case comes up often enough to make it worth knowing the standard pronunciation. I should note, of course, that the query isn’t about the right pronunciation in some etymological sense; and even the party’s own pronunciation of his own name may not be relevant in some cases, especially if the case is old enough.

This is an excellent idea, but I can see already, from the comment thread over there, that some people are confused; one says, “My law prof pronounced [Giglio] phonetically (‘JIG-lee-oh’), but under standard Italian pronunciation, the second ‘g’ should be silent” and another says “In the case of getting Giglio correct, probably the most important part is getting it to be two syllables rather than the three that many English speakers would get. So, it’s not jzhee-lee-oh, it’s more like jzhee-lyoe.” Italian pronunciation is of course irrelevant. And it should go without saying that Fidell et al. should not take any one respondent’s word for standard pronunciation.
I was surprised to learn from the thread (and from this Safire column, linked from it) that amicus, in America, is universally pronounced either uh-MEE-kuss or AM-uh-kuss; no one except Justice Stephen Breyer uses my version, uh-MY-kuss, learned (I suppose) from UK-oriented dictionaries like the OED. But (not being a lawyer) I will not change my old mumpsimus for your new sumpsimus.

Comments

  1. The “Volokh” mentioned here is Eugene Volokh, the whizkid immigrant who graduated college at 15 and got his law degree from UCLA Law School at 24.

  2. Dunno about the OED, but we certainly learned uh-MEE-kuss at school in the UK.

  3. My schooling was refreshingly free of petty-nationalistic point-scoring. One exception was the odd mutter about the horrors of English pronunciation of Latin.

  4. Dunno about the OED, but we certainly learned uh-MEE-kuss at school in the UK.
    Ditto in Toronto.

  5. My schooling was refreshingly free
    But a lot of petty-nationalisic point scoring at home, dearie? French mum, something like that?

  6. amicus [curiae]
    The OED pronunciation is given as /əˈmaɪkəs kjuːrɪiː/. Stangely, it does not show the plural. SOED does, with the pronunciation /aˈmʌɪsʌɪ/. Butt-ugly. (Note the different systems for pronunciation, in current SOED and current OED. They contain legions.)

  7. Strangely more than stangely. But that too.

  8. “But a lot of petty-nationalisic point scoring at home, dearie? French mum, something like that?” Certainly not. As my father liked to joke, I was bounced on Dutch and Norwegian knees before ever I met an Englishman.

  9. “Gene Fidell (Yale Law School)”: just a guess, but I suppose a lawyer would prefer that his surname shouldn’t be pronounced “fiddle”.

  10. @dearieme There was a well-known linguistics professor named Twaddell fifty years ago. Unfortunately he accented the last syllable of his name.

  11. “got his law degree from UCLA Law School at 24.”
    Yes, college at 15 is impressive. But graduating law school at 24 is not really unusual. Why bring that up?
    I always say “am-EE-cus”, but I grew up in a family of lawyers.

  12. graduated college at 15 and got his law degree from UCLA Law School at 24
    Nine years in law school?

  13. Our lawyers used to be called Queue and Fester, which they spelled eccentrically as Few and Kester. To spare their blushes they eventually merged with another firm, to become Queue, Fester and Dropdead. Though I made that last part up.

  14. marie-lucie says:

    AJP: Nine years in law school? he may well have been trying other things after college graduation, before deciding to go to law school.

  15. John Emerson says:

    Regarding Fidell, Esq.: as I have reported before, there are linguists named Birdwhistell (Ray), Vogelsong (Willem), and Quackenbush (Edward Miller) but to my knowledge still none named Pieplenbosch. Some of these were anthropologists and only borderline linguists.
    Also regarding Fidell, Mord Fiddle has a remarkable cameo role in Njal’s Saga.

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