What is POFP?

Why do lawyers refer to long documents as briefs and
18-year olds as infants? Why do they use so much Latin when so few of their
clients are Ancient Romans? Is it a conspiracy?

Party of the First Part has the answers! Check out the Website for the
Legalese Hall of Shame; a glossary of legal words linked to Adam Freedman's
columns; tips on writing legal documents in plain English; and more!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Word of the Week

Choate has become a legal term of art, as seen in the "choate lien doctrine." The only problem -- now how can I put this? -- is that choate is an utterly nonsensical word. The word “inchoate” exists, sure: it comes from the Latin incohatus or “incomplete.” In the early 1900's, lawyers, assuming that choate must be the opposite of inchoate, started using "choate" to refer to things that are complete, like a fully perfected lien. But actually, the "in" of inchoate is more like the "in" of inebriated. The Oxford English Dictionary refers to choate as "an erroneous word, framed to mean ‘finished’, ‘complete’, as if the in- of inchoate were the Latin negative." For more on Legal Latin, see my February 03 column.
In the meantime, if you drive, make sure to stay ebriated.


Trace Urdan said...

Word of the week?! you call this a blog?! Why not word of the day?! Charming and artful as ever Adam. My own pet peeve is the language used in SEC documents which again, despite efforts to protect ordinary investors, is often so convoluted as to be nonsensical. Cheers!

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