Thursday, March 10, 2005

Garner on legal lexicography

I attended a lecture last night by Bryan Garner. He's a leading teacher and scholar on legal writing, legal usage, and English usage, and he is also the editor in chief for Black's Law Dictionary. Last night he discussed the 8th edition of Black's and shared his thoughts on dictionary-making.

I concluded that I do not want to make dictionaries. It seems to be exhausting work.

Yet it is a fascinating enterprise. He talked about how to decide what words belong in a legal dictionary--no easy task. He talked about where he gets examples and definitions for words: he rarely uses judicial opinions and relies on a broad range of legal texts. And he revealed that Black's is perhaps the most widely cited legal source today; appellate courts in the United States cited it nearly 2500 times last year.

He later asked if the law school was going to put me on the tenure track. I laughed.

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