Thursday, June 23, 2005

Improper Verbing

I may previously have revealed that I have a modest degree from a decent University. Having read (at public expense) some very well written stuff in my time, although my knowledge of formal grammar is next to zero many of today's abuses of English trigger an immediate reflex of disgust when I read or hear them.

I try to conduct Court business in clear and colloquial English, and I will, if necessary, commit a tautology if it aids understanding - for example "This case is adjourned - put off- until----". One tries to use the colloquial while avoiding the vulgar. I expect professionals to spare us from modern linguistic barbarities, but that is, alas, too much to hope for from many of today's police officers and solicitors.

Pomposity (known in the higher courts as judge-itis) is the heffalump trap that captures too many of us on the Bench, as we are routinely spoken to with sometimes grovelling amounts of deference. Most of us try not to tumble into this particular pit, but sometimes there is an overwhelming temptation to drop into Rowan Atkinson old-fart judge mode.

I hope therefore that I may be forgiven for having, in recent months, responded to two particular expressions with the indignation that Dame Edith Evans put into "A Handbag!"

The first was a police officer who said that the defendant had been taken to the station but was waiting to be 'custodised' and the second was a prosecutor who said that certain exhibits had not yet been 'forensicated'. In each case I stopped the perpetrator, and invited him to repeat what he had just said. Upon their reiteration of the atrocities I said that the court would only conduct its business in English, and that they were invited to rephrase their evidence.

Perhaps I was indeed a little too pedantic, and perhaps I was having a bit too much fun, but after all, clarity begins at home, does it not?

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