Under Analysis-SPITting for the New Year

   Uneaten boxes of cookies and candies litter the Levison Towers tiny break room. Seems too many of the denizens here have taken a resolution to diet. Come February 6 or so, expect to see attorneys and staff milling through on late night binges, eating anything in sight. Stale cookies and candy will look like manna from heaven at that point.
Many talk about New Year’s resolutions. We “resolve” to do many things. Few of us actually do them. 2011 will be different, as I have not only resolved to solve a problem, but taken steps to so do.
   My complaint, with the legal profession and otherwise, is the haphazard way we use the English language. As an English major, I have little else to do with my background than nitpick the communications of others. Thus, I have started the new Society for Precision In Transmissions, or SPIT. It shall be the stated objective of this noble group to stamp out imprecision in the use of language however transmitted: spoken, written or through clicks and grunts while watching sports.
   SPIT held  our inaugural meeting on January 1, 2011. We did so indoors, as SPIT is frowned upon on sidewalks. For 2011, we set out to target the top offenders in language usage. They are:
   2. Verbal vs. Oral. If you wrote a contract, it was verbal, but not oral. If you made a promise while talking, your contract is both verbal and oral. All contracts are verbal, unless you accepted an offer via interpretive dance. Thus, to ask if a verbal contract to buy a car is enforceable is a dumb question , while the question of the binding nature of an oral contract is not. And if the car in question was a 1974 Pacer with the engine in the passenger seat, it is a dumb question either way.
  3. Lost vs. Dead. We are quick to console someone who lost a relative or friend. Truth is, we rarely lose anyone. They die. Death is part of the circle of life. So, our dead are not lost, we know pretty much where they are. If you actually lost someone, you should not be consoled, but counseled as one should be careful with relatives and friends.
   4. Your vs. you’re/ their vs. they’re. C’mon people, does this need an explanation? Intelligent folk misuse these words daily in written communiqués. SPIT refuses to define this one, but will deal harshly with offenders.
   5. Any and all, cease and desist, and other redundancies.  There was a time amongst English speakers when it was necessary to placate Anglo and Saxon sensibilities by including words from both cultures to precisely and completely transmit a thought.  This was the first recorded time in our history of political correctness. This time was also a couple of centuries ago.
    I have neither Anglo nor Saxon friends.  If you ask me for all documents in my possession, you will get any of them as well. If I cease stalking you, I will desist from doing so. Many people think that the use of both terms is required by all who possess a law degree. Those people are wrong. Stop it.
   6. Use of archaic phraseology like “comes now Petitioner” and “Petitioner prays” in legal documents. This really has to stop. I no longer come before a court to file a document- I fax it, email it, or in the case of Federal courts, load it into an electronic computer system and hope it arrives properly. It rarely does of course, but that is a different question. Unless you are still using onion paper copies or carbon paper, it is time to modernize your language.
   Likewise, we don’t actually pray to courts much. We may pray when the jury is out - again, a different topic. We may wish to continue to pray in our court filed documents, especially in federal court, although I think a simple “pretty please” should suffice in most instances. SPIT will still condone the use of latin terms of art such as Habeas corpus and lis pendens. Condone and pity, but condone nonetheless.
   7. Text  shorthand while talking.
While it would be a good time to so do, this is not directed at folks who text someone else while you are talking to them in person- those folks are rude. The use of text short hand has spilled over into everyday life. If I say something funny, don’t say LOL, actually laugh. BTW for by the way, OMG for oh my goodness and so on indicate a lack of imagination, IMHO. We make allowances for thumb typing. If you text type on a regular keyboard  or in person, I SPIT in your general direction.
   8. Disclaimers
We at SPIT call for the eradication of disclaimers that completely wipe out the previous statement- those are not disclaimers, they are wastes of our time. If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. No one reads disclaimers anyway- email me and I can prove it.
   I am thrilled with the progress of SPIT, but more needs to be done. A fitting crest is in the offing. To join SPIT or add to its mission, please direct all transmissions to the undersigned. We will respond promptly, irregardless of your word choice.

   ©2011  under analysis llc. under analysis is a nationally syndicated column of the Levison Group. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. Yes, he is aware that AMC didn’t manufacture the Pacer until 1975. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to the Levison Group via email at comments@levisongroup.com.