Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Justice Scalia admonishes lawyer: "Choate ain't a word"

Picture 135 During an oral argument back in November, Justice Scalia admonished an attorney that there's no such adjective as "choate."  You know, the opposite of inchoate.  Apparently Justice Scalia has been grinding this axe since at least 1992 and "is disgusted by the term’s faulty etymological basis."  Bryan Garner, Scalia's co-author of “Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges” and the editor of Black's Law Dictionary, agrees:

Bryan Garner, editor-in-chief of Black’s Law Dictionary and the author of the Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage, told the Times that Scalia takes issue with choate’s faulty etymological basis.

The in- in inchoate is not a negative prefix, Garner explains in his Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage. It comes from the Latin verb incohare, meaning “to begin, start out.” Taking away the in- from inchoate to form choate is back-formation and is part of a long tradition of removing prefixes and suffixes to find “roots” that were never there, the Times says.

Garner says choate is accepted and used even by those who deprecate its origins.

You can read the rest of the story courtesy of the online ABA Journal here.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legalwriting/2010/01/justice-scalia-admonishes-lawyer-choate-aint-a-word.html

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Comments

Remember, Scalia's father was a professor of romance languages...

Posted by: Mark DeForrest | Jan 13, 2010 8:25:56 AM

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