Saturday, November 26, 2005

Lawyers don't know Latin

When I recently heard about the blog "Underneath Their Robes", devoted to gossip about the federal judiciary, I was prepared to be offended. (The blog itself is now password-protected after the recent outing of its previously anonymous author, but you can read parts of it here.) Instead, I found it delightfully irreverent and interesting, and any author who can secure such a large readership and provoke so much speculation about his identity deserves my respect. In the end, the only thing I found to gripe about was the misuse of Latin, as evidenced in the Newsweek quote which first alerted me to the blog's existence:

"Have you seen Judge Kimba Wood and Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw? Babes ipsa loquitur!!!"

This is, of course, a play on the law term res ipsa loquitur, or "the thing speaks for itself." But "babes", being a plural feminine noun, demands agreement in both the intensive pronoun and the verb; it should have been "Babes ipsae loquuntur."

As I've indicated before, one of my biggest pet peeves is people using Latin to sound erudite, but not taking the trouble to use it correctly. Apparently lawyers aren't exempt from this tendency.

No comments: