Like a stubborn grinnow, the English language is not going anywhere. We lawyers must use its words to communicate arguments, describe evidence to fact-finders, and to otherwise educate and persuade. The Huffington Post recently published an article highlighting seven forgotten English words that it selected from The Horologicon, by Mark Forsyth. As foreshadowed by the title of this post, these words may be forgotten, but litigators have an intimate understanding of the concepts.
We have all run into the jack of all trades expert who provides opinions on everything from the mechanics of a hand gun to the health risks of toxic chemicals. There are a variety of vulgar phrases which can be used to describe this individual off the record, but now you can confidently out this individual on the record for practicing ultracrepidarianism, or providing opinions on subjects about which he or she knows nothing. However, beware of the cloaked ultracrepidarian. See, e.g., Sheinkopf v. Stone, 927 F.2d 1259, 1269 (1st Cir. 1991) (“That Saltiel also made use of them in his personal business activities is hardly extraordinary, nor is it even remotely sufficient to cloak his ultracrepidarian activities with Nutter’s apparent authority.”).
The English language also provides a word for the shrewd, unprincipled fact witness – a snollygoster. At least one appellant has claimed that he had a run in with such a person. Donald F. Capatosto, Appellant, EEOC DOC 01943257, 1994 WL 727940 (E.E.O.C. July 14, 1994). (“Appellant stated that he was ‘snollygostered (sic)’ by the agency into believing a second meeting would be held which would address his performance standards.”). Use this word with caution. The only problem is, by the time you finish verbalizing the four-syllables of the word “snollygoster,” the snollygoster may have already absconded with your wallet. We are happy to warn you here of such perils.
Ever wish that your witness would stop talking? What you are actually wishing for is mumbudget. The problem is, if your witness happens to be an ultracrepidarian, you may have problems accomplishing mumbudget.
Even if one is not a litigator, he or she has likely been unable to shake an issue from his or her mind in the night. We have all been there. No matter how much we toss and turn, we are unable to stop thinking about an important issue or argument. This, ladies and gentlemen, is known as uhtceare, or lying awake before dawn and worrying.
Even if you are unable to relate to any of the above, you can still print this post and take it with you to family scrabble games this holiday season. However, do so with caution. If you are able to work any of the above words into your scrabble game, you may be accused of being a guttle of points, and your family may throw things at you.