The Case Against Latin

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“The one great principle of English law is, to make business for itself.” (Charles Dickens, Bleak House)

Part of the way English law makes business for itself is through using Latin jargon, which requires a lawyer to decipher.

Luckily, the use of Latin phrases is on the decline. Law schools are shifting away from teaching such jargon and for good reason. As Stephen Waddams states in The Study of Law, the Latin language obscures clear thought by giving ideas the appearance of authority. An appearance that may very well be stripped away if stated in plain English.

A Scottish judge once said of a Latin phrase (“Res ipsa loquitur” – the thing speaks for itself) ‘If that phrase had not been in Latin, nobody would have called it a principle. The day for canonizing Latin phrases has gone past”.  [And] That was in 1923.

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