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!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Word of the Week


An action to recover possession of tangible personal property wrongfully taken or withheld by another. In ancient usage, it could also refer to an action to recover a person; that is, by bailing him out of jail. It comes from the Old French replevir. The verb form is replevy, which is often used in its polite form, "replevy, s'il vous plaƮt."

Plain Language Around the World

There's been a recent outbreak of common sense throughout the English-speaking world. Herewith (!), a recap of some current plain language initiatives.

  • In Newfoundland, the Public Legal Information Association is publishing booklets to provide "legal information without the legalese." (Thanks to Voice of the Common Man, Newfoundland).

  • Canadians are also leading the charge against impenetrable credit card applications. The Toronto Star reports that the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and MasterCard Canada have unveiled a model plain language application form.

  • In Australia, an entrepeneur has launched a website with plain language advice and forms for separated parents to create custody plans without having to wade through the swamps of legalese. (Thanks to the Daily Liberal).

  • Meanwhile, here in the US of A, Tech Journal South has published a terrific article on how to "remove legalese from your writing." The author, a small business consultant, has lots of sensible advice, including such fundamental (and often overlooked) points as keeping your audience in mind.

H2 -- oh?

We don't usually think of "water" as a legal term, but the definition of water is now a controversial item among environmentalists. According to a report in the Toledo Blade, a recently-enacted interstate compact regarding use of the Great Lakes defines water as a "product," which has some people concerned that this will allow multinationals to demand access to the Lakes under international trade laws.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Word of the Week

Lemon Law

A statute that entitles the purchaser of a car that turns out to have substantial defects to return it for a refund or replacement.

For the origin of this curious term, check out this post on the Lemon Justice site. Apparently, the use of "lemon" to describe sub-standard products goes back to the early 1900's. Read more, here.