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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
clients are Ancient Romans? Is it a conspiracy?


Party of the First Part has the answers! Check out the Website for the
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columns; tips on writing legal documents in plain English; and more!



Sunday, October 21, 2007

Word of the Week


Witnesseth


An Old English form of the verb "to witness," this word crops up in a number of boilerplate contracts, as in the preamble to an insurance policy that states “this policy witnesseth that . . .” Many leases also use that word, as seen in the opening line, “Witnesseth: the lessor agrees to lease said property, etc., etc. ” Loyola law professor and plain-language advocate Peter Tiersma describes witnesseth as “a totemic signal that roughly means ‘This is a legal contract; the following are its terms.’” Not to deny that there's something fun and whimsical about bandying about Olde English terms, but on the whole, it's best done at your local Renaissance Faire (while jousting!).


11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting "Winesseth." I work in insurance & received a supposed addendum to a contract from a vendor. Unfortunately the addendum was not well worded & pointed to a contract we've never signed, despite their attorney's assurance that it did. I'm no attorney but I held my ground and they came to find they've been using the wrong addendum nationally for some time. The correct version came back with "Witnesseth" right off the bat. I think they got outside help. That's a BIG word for them. AND me. Thx for your help. I thought they made it up. Or it was transcribed by someone with a lisp ("lispth?"). These folks should definitely stick to plain language.- K

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