[Paleopsych] TLS: (A third John Gray) Justin Warshaw: Law

Premise Checker checker at panix.com
Wed Jun 22 19:43:39 UTC 2005

That's the end of all the TLS's articles by or about John Gray. He's the 
most important political philosopher living and or because he's the 
hardest to predict.

Justin Warshaw: Law
The Times Literary Supplement, 3.2.14

    LAWYERS' LATIN. A vade-mecum. By John Gray. 143pp. Hale. £9.99. - 0
    7090 7066 7

    Little has rattled the Bar of England and Wales more than Lord Woolf's
    attack on legal Latin, save perhaps recent fears that the wearing of
    wigs may be abolished.

    The introduction of new civil procedure rules in 1999 heralded the
    beginning of the end, not only of ancient (but familiar) English words
    such as "writ" and "plaintiff", but the wholesale butchery of
    courthouse Latin.

    John Gray, who should not be confused with either the libertarian
    philosopher or the author of the bestselling self-help book for
    couples, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, is a former
    barrister and recorder who hails, or so it appears from his choice of
    topic and of foreword writer (Lord Deedes), from a very old school.
    His asserted aim, however, is to preserve legal Latin for young law
    students and lawyers, the very group who he fears may welcome its

    The product of his attempt at conservation is a remarkably readable,
    erudite and at times witty collection of words, tags and maxims. He
    illustrates entries with a series of examples ranging over legal
    authorities, forensic fables, the canon of English poetry, classical
    and even biblical references. In explaining the concept of aequitas
    sequitur legem, he weaves in the story of Everet v Williams - a
    partnership action in which the parties were two eighteenth-century
    highwaymen, one suing the other for an account of some of their
    jointly stolen goods (their solicitors were thrown in the Fleet prison
    for contempt).

    Pervading the book is Gray's amused contempt for the political
    correctness which has led to the banishment of Latin. Is Magna Carta
    to be translated? What value changing certiorari to a "quashing
    order"? He points out that in Europe our legal masters continue to use
    Latin with relish in their judgments. Attacks on Latin are not new.
    Even the Duke of Wellington is said to have reminded new Members of
    Parliament "don't quote Latin; say what you have to say, and then sit

    Gray's fear is perhaps a little misplaced, and would be alleviated by
    a day down at the law courts. Already this year a High Court Judge in
    the Family Division has quoted Virgil extensively in the original.

    The only criticism that can be levelled at this very full little
    reference book is its failure to give any guidance on pronunciation.
    It seems remarkable that Gray missed the opportunity to join the
    debate which has raged at the Bar for years over whether schoolboy
    Latin pronunciation should be used, or the apparently more correct,
    anglicized version favoured by the Americans. But Lawyers' Latin is a
    useful guide, and entertaining enough to be read cover to cover.

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