Saturday, April 5, 2008


One of the themes of this blog is that dictionaries are not reliable enough descriptive tools to be usable as authoritative guides to the meanings of words in the legal system. See the blog entry on "if" for a hint of a critique.

There is, however, a class of dictionaries that I quite like, because they don't pretend to be authoritative, and on the contrary aim at being subversive in the best sense of the word. I'm calling them "contradictionaries" (a term borrowed from the rock band Nirvana). I refer, of course, to dictionaries like Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary, John Ralston Saul's The Doubter's Companion, Edward Herman's Doublespeak Dictionary, and similar works.

I have added to this blog a links section for these contradictionaries. I may also add essays that have similar goals, such as Orwell's Politics and the English Language.

I believe that law is among the disciplines in which obfuscation and euphemism dominate. Yet I'm not aware of any law contradictionaries. If any reader knows of one, I'd appreciate it if she let me know. If not - there's a long term project for an enterprising person.

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