Cat got your tongue?
With no further ado, I offer this short list of annoying legal barbarisms:
- Incent. The word incent represents an appalling abuse of the English language. Anyone who utters it deserves to have his or her tongue strafed raw. Anyone who writes it deserves broken knuckles. According to Westlaw, 159 sources in the JLR database and 28 sources in ALLCASES have committed this barbarism. Yuck. What exactly is wrong with inspire, motivate, or (if you must) incentivize?
- Empirics. In standard English, empirics is nothing more or less than the plural form of the noun empiric, which denotes a person "who relies on practical experience." In a medical context, empiric is synonymous with charlatan. But legal sources are fond of using this word, by obvious analogy to -ics words such as economics and thermodynamics, to signify empirical data, empirical analysis, or empiricism. Folks, those are distinct concepts, and using a shortcut such as empirics is one of those cute habits that come with too many advanced degrees. That hasn't stopped an eyepopping 217 sources in JLR from using the word this way, including three articles that have incorporated empirics into their titles. Among the 34 sources in ALLCASES, at least one uses the word in the standard sense: "irresponsible quacks and empirics." Smith v. Beard, 56 Wyo. 375, 110 P.2d 260, 265 (1941).
- Various misspellings of foreword. I've seen them all. Forward. Foreward, which isn't even a "real" word. Regardless, when you misspell foreword, it's embarrassing. Foreward has nevertheless appeared in 1447 academic sources in JLR and 337 judicial sources in ALLCASES. Thirty-three articles incorporate foreward into their titles. Indeed, foreward is so common that Westlaw intercepts a search for it in JLR as one likely to generate too many results to be useful. These results understate the number of instances on which foreword has been misspelled. For obvious reasons, searching for misuses of forward is harder. Okay, once and for all: f-o-r-e-w-o-r-d.
- Juris doctorate. The proper name of the degree is juris doctor, Latin for "doctor of law." Nevertheless, Google reports a staggering 627,000 results (including some official law school and bar association websites) for a search based on the phrase "juris doctorate." For its part, Westlaw documents 743 sources in JLR and 121 in ALLCASES. Clank.