Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Legal Phrases - English and French/Latin

 Law and Order

Goods and Chattels

Last Will and Testament

Acknowledge and Confess

Breaking and Entering

Fit and Proper

Keep and Maintain

Pardon and Forgive

Bind and Obligate

Deem and Consider

Give and Grant

Indemnify and Hold Harmless

Hide and Conceal

Lewd and Lascivious 

Free and Clear

Sale and Transfer

Land and Tenements

True and Correct

Make and Enter Into

Every Kind and Nature

Give, Devise, and Bequeath

Right, Title, and Interest

These were not intended to convey subtle differences that would either close or create loopholes.  It was just an interior gloss of the meaning of a word.  In 1200 most people in England spoke English, what law that was written down was in Latin, and French was coming up on both sides. What is a lawyer or lawgiver to do? Make sure that everyone understands what you mean by writing it in both languages. These are not in any way contrasts, they are synonyms. Or at any rate, they were originally.

Not only in law.  Wrack and Ruin; Love and Affection; Soft and Gentle; Kind and Generous; Bells and Whistles; Greetings and Salutations, writers and poets were doing the same thing. We see it in Biblical Wisdom literature from an entirely different culture. An obedient son is a joy to his mother and an honor to his father.  Preachers have gotten themselves wound into knots by trying to explain why it's significant that the mother feels joy and the father is honored.  Not really.  It's a poetic repetition.

I don't know if lawyers tried to create divisions between any of these concepts in the service of getting a favorable ruling for their clients, or that any of these ideas have eventually become distinct in the law. I did break the window, your honor, but I never entered the premises.  I just reached in and grabbed the sack. I have at least four attorneys who regularly read the blog who might give us even more fascinating bits about one or more of these. But at the beginning, they were just the same concept in another language in use, to make sure everyone was on the same page.


james said...

Cease and desist

Grim said...

Good Order & Discipline

Common Peace & Lawful Order

GraniteDad said...

“ Preachers have gotten themselves wound into knots by trying to explain why it's significant that the mother feels joy and the father is honored.”

Your book actually has a similar distinction made for love/honor for wives and husbands, and I’ve always liked that.

dmoelling said...

My great-great grandfathers land grant from the USA in 1856 had these terms;

Have Given and Granted, and by these presents DO GIVE AND GRANT. I'm not sure what the basis for the change in tense was.

An unrelated but attractive phrasing was at the end

"Given under my hand, at the City of Washington, the fifth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty six and of the Independence of the United States the the eighty first",

I point out to my European Friends that when my German ancestors came to the USA we had had more years of self government since the revolution than Germany had until very recently. As I currently live in Connecticut, the fundamental orders of Connecticut possibly the first written constitution dated from 1636. So self government was bred into the American nation. This is due in large part to the history of English Law

ColoComment said...


Just one of those trivial fyi's:
South Carolina still includes similar language in its deed transfer documents. The signature block below was taken from a document found at random just now on the 'net [with identifying info omitted.]

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, _________________LLC has caused these presents to be executed by its duly authorized officer this _____ day of ____ in the year of our Lord two thousand nineteen and in the two hundred and forty-third year of the sovereignty and independence of the United States of America.

RichardJohnson said...

I have checked a number of those phrases for origins of the words. Consistent with your hypothesis, the pairs split along the the Old French/Latin versus Old English/German division. If I recognize the word as a Spanish cognate, not surprisingly the English word is of Old French/Latin origin.

One paired phrase in which both words are of Old English/German origin: to have and to hold. Ironically, I recall my high school Spanish teacher translating the verb tener as "to have and to hold."

Donna B. said...

I'm all for repetition and elegance in legal documents, but "Notwithstanding anything to the contrary" can go to hell.

RichardJohnson said...

The roots paired-word phrases do not necessarily split along the expected [Old French/Latin] and [Old English/Old German] division.
Cease and desist: both of Old French/Latin roots

Good [OE,Old German] Order [Old French/Latin] & Discipline [Latin]

Common Peace [both Old French/Latin] & Lawful [OE/Old German] Order [Old French/Latin]

But this should come as no surprise. English is a messy language.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Richard Johnson - my source, who is an attorney, probably left those out for that reason, as he was focusing on the English/not English difference. Yet the examples Grim and others have given do have a formal English feel to them, as if used in law or in religious ceremony. Because of those transitions around 1200, it has become a part of English style in general even 800 years later, used in poetry and song.

@ Granite Dad - I always thought the text justified that distinction. But perhaps it is an overread on my part? I do think that while both men and women desire both love and respect, women care more about the former, both to receive it and to give it, while men are more attuned to the latter for both giving and receiving. We each, then, have to give what comes just a bit harder in order to please the other. And yet...when a man has believed something about women in general for forty years, a lot of confirmation bias could be in play.

GraniteDad said...

Oh, I agree. Just calling out that it’s there in other texts and that difference is there.