Sunday, April 2, 2006
Ordinarly, if someone told me to read a book review of a dictionary, I suppose my first thought would be "I didn't even know they review dictionaries," and my second thought would likely be, "uh, no thanks." But if you are a word person and interested in the nuances of legal language, a book review you will likely enjoy is: Peter Tiersma, The New Black's, 55 Journal of Legal Education 386 (2005).
When I received a complimentary copy of the 8th edition of Black's Law Dictionary, I dutifully put it on my bookshelf with my other reference books, for future use. It never occurred to me to actually peruse the new edition to see what was new about it. Fortunately, Professor Tiersma has done that for me -- and you. He makes a compelling argument for the importance of keeping this standard American legal dictionary up-to-date, as he explains the effect that the previous definition of "mitigating circumstances" has had on jury decisions in capital cases. Professor Tiersma writes both knowledgeably and entertainingly (see footnote 33) about American legal English. (spl)