LSAT Kung Fu Blog / Semester 2, Week 5: The Dumbest Thing I’ve Ever Heard

Semester 2, Week 5: The Dumbest Thing I’ve Ever Heard

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Spatula

Doom. DOOM I SAY.

Saints preserve us (this whole thing will be a bit of a diversion from our neatly-charted course of normal conduct. But I have to tell you about it. It’s too, too preposterous not to write about).

Did you guys know that there is a real, active, and apparently widespread prejudice among lawyers against the word “since” as a synonym of “because”?

This delightful nugget of lunacy has been explained to me by two different people (both of whom I would ordinarily love and respect, but I have a strict “kill the messenger” policy when it comes to matters of desperate nonsense, so they’re dead now) as being related to the fact that “since” can refer to a measure of time. 

That is, the word “since” can function as a preposition (“The dowager has been waiting since noon,” where “since” tells us how far removed we are from the beginning of our wait) or as an adverb (“The dowager ran off with the viscount and hasn’t been heard from since,” where “since” modifies the verb, telling us how we (haven’t) heard from her) in addition to its function as a conjunction [ed. note: THAT RHYMED] (“Since the viscount was completely bald, the dowager saw no need to take her hairstyling implements with her when she left,” where “since” functions in exactly the same manner as “because”).

Look, I understand that it is possible to use “since” in an ambiguous manner. I could even give you an example. And now that it comes to it, I have decided that I will, in fact, give you an example (I don’t know why I’m making such a thing of it): “Since the dowager has loved the viscount, she hasn’t made much use of her hairstyling implements.” Here, it’s not perfectly clear what meaning the writer intends: has the dowager not made use of her implements because she has loved the viscount, or for as long as she has loved the viscount (although I trust you’ll agree that the use of the past participle argues strongly for the latter interpretation. If we meant “because,” surely we should have said “Since the dowager loves (or perhaps loved) the viscount…”)?

But I would like at this point to remind you that it is also possible to use an ordinary kitchen spatula to kill someone, but we do not opt on that basis to use only spoons and never spatulae (that is, I’m quite certain, the proper plural of “spatula”), now do we?

In other words, the bare fact that a word has another meaning ought never be an impediment to its other proper uses.

To really hammer home the point, here are some other words that have multiple meanings, yet are not the subject of the absurd prejudice attending “since”:

  • “Court” can mean “to woo” yet somehow we manage to use the word in legal writing to refer to the tribunal, without anyone become unduly confused thereby.
  • “Briefs” can mean “men’s underwear,” and we nevertheless manage to use the term in legal discourse to refer to written summaries without anyone becoming scandalized by the befuddling reference to undergarments.
  • “Bench” can mean “to pull out of the game,” but never in the history of the world has a judge become so flummoxed by being asked if an attorney may “approach the bench” that she needed clarification as to why the attorney was being sidelined.
  • “Issue” can refer to a liquid discharge, yet we use the word in legal writing to talk about the legal point of the matter, without anyone being overcome by bewilderment.
  • “Rule” can mean government by monarch, and still we manage to use the word in legal writing without anyone’s needing to consult counsel to determine whether we’re suggesting a return to the aristocracy.

I COULD GO ON LITERALLY ALL DAY.

My point is this: That a word has synonyms just plain flat does not bar its use. In cases where there may be some question as to which meaning of “since” is intended, then use “because”! In other cases, we ought to feel free to use the two interchangeably. Variety, spice of life and all. I mean come on. This is not that hard.

Also, just, like, be cool, can’t you? Having some kind of prejudice against the word “since,” simply because it has multiple meanings, is just the worst kind of sanctimonious buffoonery. Try it around me and you’ll get the spatula, is what I’m saying.

Hours for the week: Class = 15.75 / Study = 7 / Other = 10

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Post them below, or shoot me an email.

Be good to one another, for we need it now more than maybe ever,

d

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