Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Against Latin

I often blather on about avoiding Latin in legal writing. I think it should all go, even though when I speak to lawyers I always concede terms of art like habeas corpus and res ipsa loquitur. Just now I've been reading The Party of the First Part by Adam Freedman, and he's made some excellent points.
The usual justification for clinging to Latin is that phrases like habeas corpus sound silly if translated into English. "I'm bringing a you-have-the-body motion" just doesn't have the force of "I'm bringing a habeas motion." But this argument assumes, again, that word-for-word translation is the only option . . . . In fact, good English synonyms for habeas corpus already exist: it has been called the write of liberty and the Great Writ, both of which are perfectly good English phrases. Or one could come up with a new name for habeas corpus; call it a "custody challenge motion" or an "anti-detention motion."
Adam Freedman, The Party of the First Part 137.

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