Wednesday, October 25, 2006
A propos of Meredith's earlier post on urban legends... Did you ever notice how there are some urban legends about law schools and universities that never die? Like the old saw (debunked here) that if your roommate commits suicide, you get a 4.0? Or the one about the professor stuck in the law school during an ice storm, who had to raid the vending machines for sustenance?
Well, when I started teaching contracts three years ago, a colleague at Cumberland told me that he knew of a professor who dressed up in a chicken costume once a year. The costume went with a particular lesson on the interpretation of the term “chicken” in a contract. See Frigaliment Importing Co. v. B.N.S. Int’l Sales Corp., 190 F. Supp. 116 (1960). It’s truly a casebook classic, and Judge Friendly’s opinion begins in high dudgeon by saying “The issue is, what is chicken?” (It just gets better from there…).
Anyway, I thought that this claim about the chicken outfit was just an effort by my colleague to pull my leg. A practical joke that could result in my embarrassment (since he seemed to imply that any contracts teacher worth her salt would of course don a chicken costume). I chalked it up to an urban legend – until I asked the ever fabulous AALS contracts listserve about it. A couple people mentioned names of professors who they thought had dressed up as chickens, but those professors never wrote in to confirm, so I was unwilling to take that as proof. One professor wrote in to say that of course he dressed as a chicken, as opposed to the other days when he dressed as a duck or a swan. Somehow I don’t think he was serious.
But then, the other day, I got independent confirmation from an anonymous source. Two photos. Not an urban legend. The chicken lives!