Babel and the language of grads

03 March 2012 By Lawyers Weekly

Say cheeseNext time you’re at that function or those polite after work drinks, and someone takes a photo of your grimacing mug, don’t pout. The Austin American-Statesman has reported the…

Say cheese

Next time you’re at that function or those polite after work drinks, and someone takes a photo of your grimacing mug, don’t pout. The Austin American-Statesman has reported the development of a camera which guarantees the subject is always smiling. What a splendid development for law awards ceremonies.

The camera, made by Sony, is capable of identifying when someone smiles and will immediately take a shot without the need to press the shutter button. It uses an algorithm to track moving faces within sight, snapping the picture when smiles are big and bright.


What if you don’t want to smile though? What if the look you’re going for is benignity or tepid enthusiasm? Or menacing seriousness? Perhaps there is a button for all that too, or maybe this is a feature that borders on the absurd.

The prospects for the legal profession may also not be as bright as the camera’s pearly advertising. For example it could now take an age to get a happy snap with some dinosaur judges as the camera waits for the creak of muscles that have long ago slipped into atrophy.

Bridezilla sues

A wedding is a special time. But, rather than celebrate, one US lawyer bride has decided to litigate. Termed “bridezilla” by sections of the media, this fiery character was so upset with the colour of flowers at her wedding that that she sued the florist and alleged breach of contract, Associated Press reports.

According to Elana Glatt, Manhattan-based Posy Floral Design substituted pastel-pink and green hydrangeas for the dark-rust and green ones she had specified for her 22 centrepieces. She alleges the offending hydrangeas were not up to scratch, wilted, brown and held in waterless, dusty vases. While most people might be honeymooning, Glatt, lawyer with New York firm, Kelley Drye & Warren has sued for more than US$400,000 ($443,322) in restitution and damages for the flowers which cost US$27,435 ($30,416).

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Glatt, in the lawsuit, filed on behalf of herself, her husband David, and her mother-in-law, who paid for the flowers said, “the use of predominantly pastel centrepieces had a significant impact on the look of the room and was entirely inconsistent with the vision the plaintiffs had bargained for”.

Stamos Arakas, the florist, said that he and his wife did try to match the colour of the hydrangeas with a picture Glatt had given them, but had explained to her that the colours might not look the same due to lighting and seasonal availability. “My father used to tell me, ‘Don’t deal with the lawyers’,” said Arakas. “Maybe he was right, God bless his soul.”

Babel and the language of grads

Many lawyers might vehemently argue that their command of the language is truly unique, comparable to even the most well-versed linguists. But is the language of law firm recruitment actually as difficult to grasp as that of the liquid lexicon lawyers they employ? As RollOnFriday reports, UK firm Eversheds has answered this question with a resounding “yes” by inventing their own language for new recruits. According to their website, rather than look for the usual array of “can do” verbs and adjectives the team at Eversheds has employed some marketing lunatic to create psychobabble for new graduates to aspire to.

Available on their website, Eversheds is looking for people who are “innovateers”. What is this you ask? Well it’s the clever concoction of the words “innovative” and “volunteer”. Brilliant. Don’t worry though. If you don’t feel you are much of an innovateer how about being a “knowlivator” — a knowledgeable motivator who doesn’t just have a big brain but a big personality too, according to the site. Has someone jumped off the deep end or did they employ a child who was out of work to write this stuff?

Thankfully, Eversheds acknowledges that these are “rare qualities”. Nevertheless Folklaw has never met anyone who is a “logithiser” — a logical empathiser, who “readily sheds their tough exterior” — nor can we be “logithatic”.

More abuse of the preschool-given ability to compound words include: a “winnowmat” — the winning diplomat whose “powerful will to win finds expression in gentle diplomacy”; “proactiloper” — a proactive developer, a word designed to induce dyslexia or easily confused for something in a dentist’s tool kit; and “performibutor” — a performing contributor, who diligently “roll up their sleeves”.

Don’t laugh too much at the Old Enemy’s bastardisation of their own language. Here in the Antipodes we have a similar tendency for ridiculous neologisms. For example how many people do you know who go by the professional titles “vision clearance engineer” (window cleaner), “education centre nourishment production assistant” (dinner lady), “waste removal engineer” (bin man), “knowledge navigator” (teacher), “flueologist” (chimney sweep), “stock replenishment adviser” (supermarket shelf stacker), “cash relation officer” (banker) or “space consultant” (real estate agent). According to The New Zealand Herald these titles really exist.

Folklaw’s subeditor probably shouldn’t throw too many stones in this glass house — they managed to confuse “article clerk” for “articled clerk” earlier this month … albeit consistently — but check out for a nomenclature-related giggle.

Is brevity the soul of wit?

As is the usual practice on the weekend, Folklaw has been working hard through the night, trawling the depths of obscure case law in order to publish an interesting morsel for your reading pleasure. After studying numerous weighty tomes, Folklaw has waded upon the judgment of Cordas v Peerless Transportation Co, 27 NYS 2d 198 (1941), by Judge Carlin (honorary bard) of the New York City Court.

The defendant — a chauffeur and the victim of an armed car robbery — when faced with imminent death, slammed on the brakes and hurled himself to safety whereupon the car kept moving, hitting the plaintiff and her children (who fortunately were relatively unharmed).

The case cements the kind of basic tort law that practitioners already know about — how “reasonable care” ought to be exercised but what is “reasonable” can depend on the circumstance. Carlin, a Shakespeare fan, spoke of the “protagonist” (chauffeur) whom was embroiled in “breath-bating drama with a denouement almost tragic”.

Like Hamlet the eccentric judge then proceeded to deliver his own mad soliloquy:

“If the philosophic Horatio and the martial companions of his watch were ‘distilled almost to jelly with the act of fear’ when they beheld ‘in the dead vast and middle of night’ the disembodied spirit of Hamlet’s father stalk majestically by ‘with a countenance more in sorrow than in anger,’ was not the chauffeur, though unacquainted with the example of these eminent men-at-arms more amply justified in his fearsome reactions when he was more palpably confronted by a thing of flesh and blood bearing in its hand an engine of destruction which depended for its lethal purpose upon the quiver of a hair.”

Which roughly translates to: if someone has a gun nestled snugly on your nape, it may not be so negligent to jump ship.

Folklaw is not convinced the chauffeur weighed up his options thus: “To escape from this car or not to escape …”

A new tax system for Italy?

Summon your favourite Italian clichés and prejudices when reading this one. The Mafia is big business in Italy, so much so that a new study estimates that organised crime turns over $140 billion annually, or roughly twice the size of one of Italy’s more legitimate commercial success stories, Fiat, reported.

The Italian retail association which conducted the study, Confesercenti, says the extortion division of La Cosa Nostra is most active in southern regions of Italy, where up to 80 per cent of businesses pay extortion money under threat of violence. Confesercenti attributes the closure of 165,000 businesses and 50,000 hotels over three years to the unconventional trade practice.

Businesses in the region consider the Mafia’s “pizzo” an “unavoidable tax” to pay, reported, which puts an interesting spin on the story in a nation of non-taxpayers.

In August Folklaw reported that the Pope was working on a doctrinal pronouncement condemning tax evasion as “socially unjust”, that Prime Minister Romano Prodi was cracking down on the black economy, and that unpaid taxes were equal to 27 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

Folklaw respectfully suggests that the trinity of the Italian Revenue Service, the Vatican and the Mafia could probably combine their enviable resources and negotiation skills to leverage the black economy for the greater good of the Italian Peninsular. Prodding the populace with the trident of frustrating bureaucracy, Catholic guilt and brute force may yet prove to be the most effective of modern tax systems.

Words we’d like to’ see judicially defined


Definition: adjective and noun - adjective “Of, relating to, or characteristic of a Pangloss; unwaveringly or unrealistically optimistic” — noun “A naively or unrealistically optimistic person, a Pangloss; a person inclined to Panglossianism” — Oxford English Dictionary online.

Only use in Australian case law: “It is convenient to note three aspects of the letter of 4 May 2001. First, it illustrates Mr Voss’s Panglossian view of the world. He spoke of ‘additional substitute collateral’ and ‘previous collateral provided’; it would have been more accurate to speak of collateral being provided, not in addition to, but in lieu of, collateral which had been promised on 22 December 2000, but had not yet been provided” — Pico Holdings Inc v Wave Vistas Pty Ltd (2005) 214 ALR 392.

Library thief due massive fine

In issue 356, Folklaw reported that two valuable maps from rare 1482 editions of Ptolemys Cosmographia were stolen from the National Library of Spain. Well we’re happy to say that after reported that one of the maps turned up in Bondi Junction, TimesOnline has learned that a Uruguayan-born Spanish citizen has unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate an immunity deal with an Argentinean judge, regarding the theft of the maps.

Clearly, you’d need a map to plot the path of this story.

César Gómez Rivero, who is said to have lived in Buenos Aires for several decades, confessed to the Argentinean judge that he had taken a Stanley knife to the National Library of Spain’s valuable cartographic maps collection. He has confessed to stealing up to 19 maps from books published as long ago as the 15th century.

The judge released the man on bail after securing a number of the stolen maps in a safe.

Two of those maps, taken from the Cosmographia, are reported to be worth between $110,000 and $160,000. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation retrieved one of the maps from an antiquarian map dealer in New York, and the Australian Federal Police located the other, which had been bought on the internet by Simon Dewez, owner of the Gowrie Galleries in Bondi Junction.

“I had absolutely no idea it was stolen,” Dewez said. “I thought it was a fantastic buy, a rare opportunity.”

Last week Spanish detectives flew to Buenos Aires to interview the world’s most wanted library card holder, and Spanish authorities are seeking to extradite the man to stand trial in Madrid, where the penalties for stealing historical artefacts are stricter than perhaps the other jurisdictions Rivero has slighted.

The university library that Folklaw used to work in ruthlessly charged a draconian $125 for a lost book, and unpaid fines of $70 would block a recalcitrant student from graduating. Perhaps if Rivero had attended our university on exchange (we had more Coogee-bound Germans and than Uruguayan-born Spanish citizens on our campus), and been properly punished for his bibliographic indiscretions in his late-teens/early-20s, he’d never have resorted to a life as an antiquarian book butcher. Or maybe this was his revenge.

Babel and the language of grads
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