‘I Give You That Orange’

Image credit: Dailycolorstoday.com

Image credit: Dailycolorstoday.com

The plain English movement in legal writing is spirited in most advanced jurisdictions, common law and civil law alike. The European Union (herself civil-law-dominant) is part of this movement. EU Directives are drafted in better and clearer legal prose than traditional legislation in our common-law world. Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US are all agile plain-English destinations.

In the US, the plain English movement is over 100 years old. As Professor Judith Fischer reports, “A movement for plain English in the law has gathered momentum in the United States for more than a hundred years. A few lawyers advocated plain English in the nineteenth century.” (Judith Fischer, ‘Why George Orwell’s Ideas about Language Still Matter for Lawyers’, University of Louisville School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 2007-02; Montana Law Review, vol. 68, page 132.)

One of those lawyers was Timothy Walker, an Ohio judge. In the article just quoted, learned author Judith Fischer continues: “Timothy Walker . . . parodied a lawyer saying ‘I give you that orange’:

I give you all and singular my estate and interest, right, title and claim, and advantage of and in that orange, with all its rind, skin, juice, pulp, and pips, and all right and advantage therein, with full power to bite, cut, suck, and otherwise eat the same, or give the same away, as fully and effectually as I, said A.B., am now entitled to bite, cut, suck, or otherwise eat the same orange, or give the same away, with or without its rind, skin, juice, pulp, and pips, anything hereinbefore, or hereinafter, or in any other deed or deeds, instrument or instruments of what nature or kind soever, to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.

Walker concocted this legalese to illustrate the virtues of its opposite, plain English.

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