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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
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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Word of the Week

ss

Not exactly a word, granted, but an abbreviation typically found at the beginning of an affidavit or other sworn statement, when listing the venue of the affidavit: "State of New York, County of New York: ss."

Unfortunately nobody can remember exactly what those two little letters stand for. They come from an old system of Latin notation known as “court hand," so it's safe to say that they stand for something in Latin. The abbreviation is sometimes said to be short for scilicet (one may know); but other suggestions include subscripsi, sans, sacerdotes, sanctissimus, Spiritus Sanctus, and sunt. Black’s Law Dictionary will only go so far as to say that it is “commonly . . . supposed to be a contraction of ‘scilicet’.” And yet, no self-respecting lawyer will draft an affidavit without it.

6 comments:

Stephens said...

Consider this explanation:

locus sigilli = place of the seal

and when written in ancient script,

when small "L" (l) was written to look similar to "s",

"ls", looking like "ss"
meant
"put the seal here you idiot who cannot remember how to do it after doing it 100 times"

Anonymous said...

It is sometimes said to stand for 'signum sigilli', but that doesn't work at the beginning of court documents, so I agree with the 'meaning forgotten' explanation.

Margaret
www.margaret-marks.com/Transblawg

Jim Rose said...

It is thought by some ( I believe Prof. Garner is one) that"ss" is a copy of a typo of sorts by a scribe and has no meaning at all.

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