STOP VS. CEASE.

Geoff Pullum has a good Lingua Franca post about a sentence he found in the preface to Interpreting Imperatives, by Magdalena Kaufmann: “Arnim von Stechow … has never stopped to present me with thought provoking questions.” As he says, she clearly meant what has to be expressed in English by either “has never ceased to present me” or “has never stopped presenting me”; the interesting point is the subtle difference between the verbs and the implications for language learning:

I have no idea how a native speaker of German learning English can be expected to detect that one of two almost-synonyms forbids the following infinitival clause from being interpreted as a complement (i.e., from denoting the activity that is discontinued), while the other permits it.
Indeed, I have no idea how you or I learned it when we were toddlers. Nobody explains to kids which verbs take which types of complements. Hardly anyone has an adequate conscious grasp of the necessary facts. There are thousands of verbs, and at least half a dozen very different kinds of complement clause. The crucial fact here is recorded in The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language on Page 1228 (note that cease is on the list in example display [10], but stop is not). But The Cambridge Grammar runs to over 1,750 pages excluding end matter. Nobody is explicitly taught everything that appears that it covers. A huge majority of what they learn is acquired through some natural process of absorption, on the basis of simply observing people say things to each other (and, after a certain point, perhaps also reading things that people have written down). We don’t understand this process.
The astonishing thing to me is not that a highly intelligent semantics Ph.D. should have fallen into the stop/cease trap. The astonishing thing is that foreign adults like Professor Kaufmann learn English so well and make so few mistakes.

Comments

  1. Is “simply observing people say things to each other” intentional? It seems ungrammatical to me (as opposed to “simply hearing people say things to each other” or “simply observing people saying things to each other”).

  2. I’ve always found the phrase “cease & desist” quite irritating. It seems to be tautology; does it cover some contingency that wouldn’t be noticed by a non lawyer?
    While I’m at it, can anyone explain the US phrase “Police Blotter”. I understand the usage, but why a blotter? If you write on blotting paper the ink spreads until it’s indecipherable.

  3. “thought provoking” would be better as “thought-provoking”. Why? Because “”Arnim von Stechow … has never stopped to present me with thought” is itself a complete and comprehensible sentence, and therefore reading the whole sentence requires an irksome gear-change from the reader at that point.
    The American War on Hyphens is as noticeable as the American War on Adverbs or as the British War on Comprehensible Speech.

  4. Many thanks, Birdseed – I like your name a lot, and let’s not forget that now is the time to be spreading birdseed in the snowy parts of the northern hemisphere – but then surely “desist” would cover “cease”. You cannot desist without at the same time being obliged to cease, in other words.

  5. I had to fill in a form the other day and certify that it was “true, correct and complete.” I wondered what the difference between ‘true’ and ‘correct’ was, in lawyer-speak or any other foreign language.

  6. On lawyerspeak – I’ve been told that putting in several (near-)synonyms into legal texts is a feature of Anglo-Saxon and especially the American legal tradition, determining future interpretation not by using a single term, the meaning of which can be later debated, but by delimitating a semantical area. So in “cease and desist” the wording is to preclude any interpretation based on arguing that “cease” only means that you have to stop now, but can re-start doing the prohibited action at a later point or arguing that “desist” only means that you cannot restart, but that you can continue an action that you have begun. You can say that the argumentation concerning “desist” is wrong, and that using that verb alone would be sufficient, but the intent of using “cease and desist” is to preclude that discussion in advance and make sure that the intent is both stopping the prohibited action now and never having it repeated later. For “true” and “correct” the intent is to preclude any arguments based on e.g. a distinction between “true” being about factual accuracy and “correct” being about formal compliance. So, in Anglo/American lawyerspeak, the principle is to use as many related terms as you think you need to reduce wriggle-room to a minimal amount. Whether that alwasy works is a different matter.

  7. Let’s acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickednesses.

  8. Thank you, Hans.
    Rodger: I suggest ‘confess’ is short for ‘confess to a priest’ which differentiates it from ‘acknowledge’.

  9. The American War on Hyphens is as noticeable as the American War on Adverbs or as the British War on Comprehensible Speech.
    Huh? There is no war on either hyphens or adverbs, and I don’t know where you’re getting that. As it happens, U.S. style mandates a hyphen in that phrase, and if I were editing Geoff’s piece for publication I would have added it. Since it is simply a blog post, I think we can let minor violations of Chicago style slide.
    And could you explain the adverb thing? Because although I get that you’re not entirely serious, I also have no idea what you’re referring to.

  10. Thanks, Hans. That makes a lot of sense. It’s a shame it wasn’t made use of elsewhere (Bible, Koran, 2nd Amendment), really. So how do other legal systems cope with ambiguous language, or is it just English that has so many fuzzy synonyms?

  11. can anyone explain the US phrase “Police Blotter”. I understand the usage, but why a blotter?
    An excellent question, to which I have not been able to find an answer. The OED has:

    4. A record of arrests and charges in a police office; a charge-sheet; also gen. a record-book or list. U.S.
    1887 Harper’s Mag. Mar. 500/2 Every item of police duty, and of civil or criminal occurrence, is inscribed on the ‘blotter’.
    1906 Atlantic Monthly Feb. 264 It was necessary..to examine the day-book or blotter in the chief clerk’s office [at the Patent Office].
    1910 Washington Times 14 Dec. 1 Three more additions were made yesterday to the hospital blotters.
    1926 J. Black You can’t Win xix. 299, I never put his name, which is my name, on a police blotter or a prison register while he was alive.
    1965 ‘R. L. Pike’ (title) Police blotter.

    But no explanation of the usage. I found a 1916 Columbus, Ohio: report on a survey of the city government with the following on p. 86:

    3 DESK BLOTTER

    No desk blotter is maintained. In order that the division may have a complete record of the activities of the uniformed force, a record to be known as the “desk blotter” should be maintained by the sergeant and the head of the detective bureau. The desk blotter should be a large bound bodk in which all movements of the force would be recorded chronologically. It should be the only record in the division known as a “blotter.” All other books should be known as “records.” The book should be ruled so as to have a marginal column on the left side of each page about two inches in width. The pages should be numbered. The entries in this book and the method of making them should be in accordance with specific rules. These rules should require that the blotter contains entries concerning the following:
    The time the members arrived at the station and the time they left and the reason for leaving [etc.]

    Very orderly and exact, but again, no reason for the name. Curious.

  12. Since the prime purpose of legalese is to intimidate, rather than to enlighten, and yet it must achieve this goal without being wrong, it is perfectly understandable with the legalese woud resort to strings of synonims (none of them are incorrect, and yet stringing them together comes across as spooky)

  13. J.W. Brewer says:

    “Intimidate” may be too narrow (depending on how it is meant), but another thing that’s going on is that, whatever the original motive for their creation, particular traditional bits of legalese often get carried forward over time and accumulate a certain ritualistic/numinous feeling that makes people disinclined to tamper with them. (In addition to the example given above, “to have and to hold” in wedding vows is another obvious instance in an ecclesiastical setting — that may or may not be a straight translation of a pre-Reformation “habere et tenere”; I haven’t taken time to look it up.) There is really very little upside for a lawyer in taking a well-established formulaic wording and starting to prune it down by applying some sort of Omit-Needless-Words principle (except of course in a setting where a court filing is subject to a maximum word count or page count limit and your draft is over the limit the night before the deadline!). Probably nothing disastrous in practice would occur if you eliminated what seems to be unnecessarily redundant verbiage, but who wants to be the one to run the experiment? And even if it doesn’t hurt, using the established-and-probably-redundant form requires less time than editing, and why should the client pay for the time spent doing that editing? There are particular areas (generally involving documents theoretically supposed to be comprehensible by consumers or investors) where there has been regulatory or commercial pressure to replace traditional forms of wording with “Plain English,” but that sort of dynamic is the exception rather than the rule, and there’s often a costly transition period where lots of time and effort is spent with people worrying about whether their brand-new Plain English wordings will actually produce the same legal effects as the turgid inherited predecessor versions did.

  14. I too think that intimidation is often the motive for using legalese, especially when it’s by non lawyers (eg by the police or landlords).
    Many thanks for that explanation, J.W. And many thanks, Language, for researching ‘police blotter’. If you don’t know then the answer has probably disappeared.

  15. FWIW, In trading there is a concept of an “order blotter” which seems at some level similar to the “police blotter”…
    http://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/blotter.asp

  16. Some East Tennessee natives say “I don’t care to” for “I don’t mind.” Ex.:
    “Could you mail this letter for me please?”
    “I don’t care to.”
    I don’t know how widespread this is, and I wouldn’t care to find out.
    On stop/cease + infinitive: In the nice little documentary “American Tongues” from 1988 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Tongues) a woman from Boston (if I remember correctly) says, “I enjoy to travel.” For 20 years I’ve wondered if that’s a regional usage, and why it is that *like* can be followed by an infinitive or a gerund, while *enjoy* is not normally followed by an infinitive.

  17. Well, it’s also to fence in any weaselly types who want to break the spirit of the law through semantics. Children have a talent for this sort of thing.

  18. LH, I often find American English under-hyphened: the use (in scientific writing especially) of rows of nouns, some of which are meant to act jointly as adjectives, is particularly infuriating, when a little hyphenation would not remove the ugliness but might at least impart some comprehensibility. In my view, if I understand every word in a sentence then I ought to be able to understand the sentence. I don’t think that’s asking too much. It’s not just in science, though: you’ll find plenty of examples in the financial pages
    As for the adverb crack: I come across American English where an adjective is inserted where an adverb ought to be or, particularly odd, I stumble across cases where the use of a verb with an adverb is eschewed in favour of using somewhat abstract nouns instead. I see and hear the latter less in British English though it does seem to have become popular among sports broadcasters. So where you or I might advise a footballer to run faster, the broadcaster says that he needs to develop an enhanced pace.

  19. As to blotter, in pre-computer age businesses and bureaucracies, it seems to have been the place for rough drafts and hurried jottings that were later to be copied more permanently into day-books or official records.
    Interestingly, blotting paper (“a bibulous paper made without size, used to absorb superfluous ink”, OED) appeared as early as the mid-sixteenth century. Insofar as I ever thought about, I always imagined sand was the ink drinker of choice, paper then being not the cheap commodity that it has since become.

  20. I don’t think you could just use any old sand off the nearest beach or building site. It was expensive sand like you see in egg timers.

  21. According to wiki, blotting paper (Russ. промокашка) was invented in 1835 spuriously, when a technologist forgot to add adhesives to paper pulp mix. Once its ink blotting capacity has become clear, nobody used sand anymore. When we were kids, every elem school notebook came with a leaf of промокашка in it, although it was anachronistic already as our standard-issue pens were already refillable, and rarely left ink drops (the dreaded 35-kopeck pens would leak ink drop alright, but only if shaked quite rigorously). I still remember ink-stained calluses on my fingers from this horror pen :) ! Of course pencils and block letters were strictly forbidden; but better-quality pens were usually forbidden too, to enforce social conformity.
    Intimidation vs. clarity, LOL I was actually just paraphrasing my posdoc advisor, who used to tell me, “if your presentation can’t be make convincing, then at the very least make it intimidating” :)

  22. Jeffry House says:

    Police blotter, or as my Scandinavian grandmother would say, “politi blader”.

  23. Also interestingly wrt cultural differences about blotting paper, a classic paperweight in Russia had no fancy glasswork, but was instead convex in shape so as to fit a leaf of blotting paper.
    As on of my fav verses goes, “a presse-papier is rocking like a battle tank”:
    На еще разноцветной карте за Таллином
    Пресс-папье покачивается, как танк.

  24. J.W. Brewer says:

    By intimidate being too narrow, I meant inter alia that it may also serve (and we’re talking in both instances about effect on outsiders, not effect on other lawyers) to impress. Clients may have their own preexisting stereotypes about the sonorous diction of legalese they wish to have confirmed, so when you draft a will for them they will be quite happy that it uses ponderous synonym-chains like “give, bequeath, and devise” rather than sounding like something they well could have drafted themselves using their own everyday lexicon. One man’s spookiness is another man’s numinosity.

  25. That’s an interesting use of ‘devise’.

  26. marie-lucie says:

    Before the invention of blotting paper, blotting was done with a special, absorbent powder called pounce (from Fr (pierre) ponce ‘pumice’). See Wiki:
    Pounce is a fine powder that was sprinkled over wet ink to hasten drying prior to the invention of blotting paper. The powder was prepared from substances such as finely ground salt, sand, or powdered soft minerals such as talc or soapstone. A mixture of sandarac gum, and pumice or cuttlebone serves as pounce and can also be used for sizing paper and vellum.
    I too learned to write with a pen in elementary school, with ink contained in un encrier (inkpot). In school the encrier was stuck in a hole drilled to that effect close to the edge of the desk (we had double, inclined desks, for two children, and there were two holes near the top , each with reach of the right hand). We each had a sheet of blotting paper (un buvard), but it was not part of the notebook. If you got too much ink in the pen, it would cause a drop sitting on the page, which had to be blotted carefully (starting from the edge of the buvard) otherwise it would spread on the page and make a larger, unsightly spot, perhaps covering part of what you had already written. In elementary school we used purple ink, but later when I had a fountain pen to use in secondary school and later, I used blue ink, and later black ink. Teachers of course used red ink to mark our homework.

  27. marie-lucie says:

    Dmitry: a classic paperweight in Russia had no fancy glasswork, but was instead convex in shape so as to fit a leaf of blotting paper.
    Are you sure you are talking about a paperweight? A paperweight has to be flat-bottomed and heavy in order to keep papers underneath from flying about. It is meant to stay put most of the time. The gadget holding a sheet of blotting paper can’t be too heavy since a writer needs to use it often, and the bottom is convex so that you can move it (after securing the blotting paper) in a teeter-totter motion over the inked part. There is a picture of this object on the French Wiki page, although you can’t tell that the blotting paper is underneath (look up “buvard” – there is no corresponding Russian page, and the English one shows a different object holding a full roll of blotting paper rather than a single small sheet).

  28. I wonder, could “blotter” in “police blotter” somehow be related to German “Blätter”, i.e. the plural of sheet or leaf of paper?

  29. marie-lucie says:

    DP p.s. Пресс-папье покачивается, как танк.
    I wrote my previous comment before yours was posted. Perhaps Russian presse-papiers were designed as hybrids to do double duty, pressing and blotting?

  30. and let’s not forget that now is the time to be spreading birdseed in the snowy parts of the northern hemisphere
    As if our avian friends needed our feel-goodism to survive the rigours of winter. The irony of the “ecological” GAIAists writ plain. Don’t cut the trees, don’t destroy habitat, don’t mess with Mother Nature but feed the birds please.

  31. Hozo, there must be more satisfying venues for attempting to stir the shit. Nobody here cares about your edgy views on bird-feeding.

  32. Oh fuck off, Bozo. You wouldn’t recognise a bird if it pecked your eyes out.

  33. I don’t think you could just use any old sand off the nearest beach or building site.
    Decidedly not! Still, paper before wood pulp, very not cheap. But useful: Blottyng papyr serveth to drye weete wryttynge, lest there be made blottis or blurris (W. Horman’s Vulgaria, 1519 (p. 8o b). First usage goes back to 1400s, not sure when pounce was introduced.
    And count on the Japanese to take paper to the next level.
    (And here is yet another use for pounce.)

  34. M-L – yes, images for tampon-buvard show exactly what the Russians would have called as (obviously borrowed from French) presse-papier. The meanings must have split at some point! Of course most Russian dictionaries record both meanings of Пресс-папье, and on the image search clearly shows both sets of objects, the regular decorative paperweights, as well as the convex blotters.
    The great multitran actually adds a third possible French equivalent, serre-papiers
    But only the blotters survived in the Soviet beaurocratic universe; they were typically very utilitary and unadorned, like this 1917 example
    The (obscure) English equivalent of tampon-buvard must be rocking blotter. In some languages (e.g. Lithaunian) this blotting device is also called the same as a paperweight, and in others, differently. E.g. in German it is Löschwiege and in Polish – Suszka kołyskowa, both names comparring its rocking action with a bassinet cradle.
    BTW the word “blotting” survived quite well in the XXI century; it is now done with special polymer membranes to “blot” and capture biomolecules from the fractionation media. There is a funny linguistic quirk about the bioscience blots. One of the earliest techniques have been invented by Dr. E. Southern and therefore dubbed Southern Blotting. When other variations of the method were put into use, people called them … Nothern, Western, and even South-Western and Far Western blotting LOL!

  35. J.W. Brewer says:

    Paul: yes, it’s I think gotten sufficiently obscure that even lawyers don’t use it freestanding anymore. There’s also a (near-obsolete?) noun “devise” that is roughly synonymous with “bequest,” as in the famous 11-volume “Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise History of the Supreme Court of the United States,” the preparation of which was funded at least originally by the Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise, which in turn was funded by assets left by Justice Holmes in his will.

  36. Pounce is still used today by architects. I don’t think it’s exactly the same: this pounce is tiny rubber granules that leak slowly from a 3″-long bulging white cotton cushion on to a draughting table. It’s used to stop a graphite drawing getting dirty from the parallel rule sliding constantly over it (the rule leaves ugly marks).

  37. @Paul: Not in the General Confession it isn’t.

  38. marie-lucie says:

    Dmitry, thanks for the links to images of the tampon-buvard and the presse-papier. In old Russian offices it must have been confusing to use the same word for both things. And the other links are great too!
    AJP, the principle is the same, a fine powder, but yours is used as a kind of eraser, while the blotting pounce (the older type) is or was used for drying ink, and the embroidery pounce is used to mark a design on fabric by staying in tiny holes made in the fabric to outline the design.
    In all these cases the powder has to be easy to remove after it is no longer needed. Commercial embroidery kits you can buy (if you don’t do your own design) have the design lines marked in a greyish tone with a type of pounce. When the work is finished, washing or dry-cleaning will remove those lines.

  39. Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise History of the Supreme Court of the United States
    I’d kind of like to hyphenate that, but I can’t think how.

  40. Feed birds, not trolls.

  41. I am surprised at the confusion in the matter of gerund vs infinitive for non-native speakers. Being a non-native speaker myself I was taught at age 13 what the difference was between “he stopped to smoke” (interrupted his walk to light a cigarette) and “he stopped smoking” (he gave up smoking). The first verb “to stop” is intransitive; the second verb “to stop” is transitive and smoking is its direct object.
    Good old-fashioned Latin-based grammar rules do have their uses…

  42. Frans, does that Latin-based logic allow you to predict the meaning of “it ceased to function”?

  43. “Cease and desist” is a “legal doublet”. Here is a short piece about “Legal English – The Habit of Doubling, Tripling & Quadrupling”. An Australian newspaper article says:

    Self-described “amateur philologist”, the eminent QC Julian Burnside explains the tautology enveloping many legal expressions. He cites couplets such as “null and void”, “will and testament”, “cease and desist”, “let or hindrance”, where one of each pair is Anglo-Saxon, the other Norman French. The duplication was motivated by the desire to cover all bases and pre-empt misunderstanding.

    Problem there is, “cease” and “desist” derive from French/Latin, as do “null” and “void”.

  44. JWB: Properly, you bequeath personal property, whereas you devise real estate. With the modern unification of the formerly very different methods for doing so, the double-barreled expression serves to cover both procedures, if they are not unified, or the unified procedure if there is one.
    On sand, Thomas Sheridan tells us:

    There is another anecdote recorded of [Jonathan Swift], of what passed between him and Dr. Arbuthnot in the same coffee-house. The Doctor had been scribbling a letter in great haste, which was much blotted; and seeing this odd parson near him, with a design to play upon him said, “Pray, sir, have you any sand about you?” “No,” replied Swift, “but I have the gravel [i.e. bladder calculi], and if you will give me your letter I’ll piss upon it.” Thus singularly commenced an acquaintance between those two great wits, which afterwards ripened into the closest friendship.

  45. Let’s acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickednesses.
    Showtime! (Settles in with popcorn and a beer.)
    I’ve just read a book, volume, monograph, tract, treatise, or otherwise-styled literary production, without prejudice to generality or specificity in any way, on legal drafting. Yes, legal doublet (Grumbler, 2013). One problem with such cautious excess, acknowledged in reformed practice, is that there can be a supposition of exhaustiveness. So for example, if a document specifies “any fruits, including plantains, tomatoes, and pumpkins”, that seems safe enough, right? But no! Counterintuitively, the exclusion of zucchini can seem intended because there is a list, but they are not listed. Safer, according to one school, to write simply “any fruits”, or perhaps “any fruits whatsoever”.

  46. So how do other legal systems cope with ambiguous language, or is it just English that has so many fuzzy synonyms?
    In my (limited) experience, it’s more typical for the English legal tradition than for other legal systems. Other systems I know (continental European like the German or Russian tradition) seem to go more for assigning strict definitions in order to avoid ambiguity.

  47. Other systems I know (continental European like the German or Russian tradition) seem to go more for assigning strict definitions in order to avoid ambiguity.
    Not only strict, but also more straightforward in German. So, for instance, “without let or hindrance” is just frei or ohne Einschränkung. To “take a cease and desist action” against someone is just auf Unterlassung klagen. I think the average German lawyer needs to know only German to practice effectively, not relicts of Latin, Olde Englysshe and Norman French as well. Here is a sweet site with Latin law phrases and their German counterparts.

  48. N: One problem with such cautious excess, acknowledged in reformed practice, is that there can be a supposition of exhaustiveness.
    I recall from reading a bit of American constitutional history (many years ago) that law drafters sometimes try to hedge their bets by merely encouraging a supposition of exhaustiveness, without saying so explicitly. In this way, future generations of judge are free to wheel.

  49. marie-lucie says:

    sand : The Doctor had been scribbling a letter in great haste, which was much blotted; and seeing this odd parson near him, with a design to play upon him said, “Pray, sir, have you any sand about you?”
    Obviously sand here does not mean beach sand or the like but the blotting powder, which people intending to write when away from home would often carry about them, just as they carried pens and paper. But the Doctor did not expect the “odd parson” to be aware of this meaning, which may have been part of the jargon of a limited circle of writers.

  50. Keith Ivey: Is “simply observing people say things to each other” intentional?
    It sounds okay to me, but an “-ing” may be lost after “say” to avoid having two “-ing” forms close to each other: “observing saying”. A constraint on this is discussed by Haj Ross in a paper “Double -ing” (or a similar title — was in Proc. Chicago Ling. Soc.). Notice that it is worse to have the two “-ing” forms contiguous: *”the people who I was simply observing saying things to each other”.

  51. I wonder if it’s possible to use sand paper as a compromise.
    I have the impression that this concern about the real intended meaning of these legal doublet (thanks, Stu) words over several hundred years is just very silly. PULL YOURSELVES TOGETHER OR YOU CAN JUST DO IT IN GERMAN!

  52. “”Frans, does that Latin-based logic allow you to predict the meaning of “it ceased to function”?””
    Ø, no, it does not.
    But one needs no Latin-based rules to translate this. The point is that according to my stated rule the prediction would be: “ceased functioning”, which, I think, is also correct.
    Within the scope of the Latin-based grammar, “cease to + Vb” might be a lexical particularity, similar to:
    “I ‘d like/love to travel”
    vs
    “I like/love travelling”
    Where the “love to travel” expresses an actual preference at this very moment, and “love travelling” a universal love of travelling.
    This would nicely agree with Hans’ supposition about the combination “cease and desist” where “cease” by itself might be construed to mean “stop now at this moment”.
    However I think that the subtle difference between “love to do” and “love doing” has been lost over the last two (or even three) generations. Aged schoolteachers may be the only ones remembering it at all. Though some of it, I think, may persist in British usage.
    -
    I never pretended the old-fashioned Latin-based grammar was infallible, I just think it may be useful when learning a second or third language. Any IE language, that is.
    -

  53. I wonder if it’s possible to use sand paper as a compromise.
    Only if you’re making palimpsests.

  54. That might work.

  55. David Marjanović says:

    Southernblotting detects DNA of specific sequences, Northernblotting RNA, Westernblotting proteins. I’ve done Southern and Western blots myself.
    And yes, the customary usage of spaces in these spellings is… intriguing.

    The American War on Hyphens is as noticeable as the American War on Adverbs or as the British War on Comprehensible Speech.

    The War on Hyphens has long spread to the UK and even unto teh whole wide intarwebz as far as they’re in English. Even some weirdness sighted in German might be caused by it.
    The British War on Comprehensible Speech is actually a matter of bad microphones. When the Dread Briton asks a question at a scientific conference through a sufficiently bad microphone, most people will only hear a random sequence of vowels and long glottal stops. I get trouble breathing just from listening. This does not happen with Americans or Australians, and it does not happen without a microphone (though I still notice the heavy glottalization so prominent in Perfidious Albion).

    (Bible, Koran, 2nd Amendment)

    Since the prime purpose of legalese is to intimidate, rather than to enlighten, and yet it must achieve this goal without being wrong, it is perfectly understandable with the legalese woud resort to strings of synonims (none of them are incorrect, and yet stringing them together comes across as spooky)

    In German this goal is mostly attained (see what I’m doing there?) by creating new words, digging up obsolete ones, and using the infamous long sentences.

    the use (in scientific writing especially) of rows of nouns, some of which are meant to act jointly as adjectives, is particularly infuriating

    Oh yes. Sometimes I stumble over them, and it takes me a second or three to figure out what was meant.

    I wonder, could “blotter” in “police blotter” somehow be related to German “Blätter”, i.e. the plural of sheet or leaf of paper?

    …And indeed, one such sheet is called Löschblatt.

    So for example, if a document specifies “any fruits, including plantains, tomatoes, and pumpkins”, that seems safe enough, right?

    Hah. “Including but not limited to”!

    I think the average German lawyer needs to know only German to practice effectively, not relicts of Latin, Olde Englysshe and Norman French as well.

    Well, yes, but…

    Here is a sweet site with Latin law phrases and their German counterparts.

    …this contains examples of what I said above: zueignen, and therefore Zueignungsabsicht simply doesn’t exist outside of legalese, and it’s not immediately obvious what it means. In fact, animus rem sibi habendi suggests that I guessed wrong (even though I’ve heard Zueignung before!), and it’s just an otherwise useless synonym of aneignen!

  56. David: Zueignungsabsicht simply doesn’t exist outside of legalese, and it’s not immediately obvious what it means. In fact, animus rem sibi habendi suggests that I guessed wrong (even though I’ve heard Zueignung before!), and it’s just an otherwise useless synonym of aneignen!
    I also guessed wrong. In everyday, elevated-register life, zueignen of course means “dedicate” or “give”. Note that the verbs sich zueignen and sich aneignen leave no doubt as to what’s what. Zueignungsabsicht is not so clear. However, most technical terms from any specialized field are, by definition of specialized, useless elsewhere. So what ? Pity it’s so hard to explain to a non-IT person what it is that I do in IT, but that’s life in an ausdifferenzierter Gesellschaft.
    As so often, it may be the case that there are differences between Germany and (say) Swiss legalese. Aneignungsabsicht is the title of article 6.5 of Swiss Strafrecht, besonderer Teil, whereas § 249 StGB on Raub uses the expression sich zueignen. § 249 in fact uses zueignen in both ways, courtesy of the dative:

    (1) Wer mit Gewalt gegen eine Person oder unter Anwendung von Drohungen mit gegenwärtiger Gefahr für Leib oder Leben eine fremde bewegliche Sache einem anderen in der Absicht wegnimmt, die Sache sich oder einem Dritten rechtswidrig zuzueignen, wird mit Freiheitsstrafe nicht unter einem Jahr bestraft.

    The German WiPe on Zueignungsabsicht explains that Aneignung is merely a component of Zueignung, in addition to the Enteignung component. There are even different “theories” used to construe cases of theft: a Sachwerttheorie and a Substanztheorie.
    Even this cursory investigation reveals nothing out of the ordinary: just stuff that annoys the layman at first sight, and turns out to be halb so wild on the second look.

  57. Hah. “Including but not limited to”!
    Hah hah. Doesn’t always work. The book I read was Modern Legal Drafting (Butt and Castle, 2001). I can’t find where this precise point is discussed. The principle is expressio unius est exclusio alterius ["mention of one thing is exclusion of another"]. Provisions are used to defeat it, like “including but not limited to”; but they cannot be relied upon in all jurisdictions in all contexts. See our old friend Bryan Gardner, and others. The law, to borrow Joyce’s improvement on Dickens, is a doublebarrelled ass.

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