Saturday, December 15, 2012

Well, what DOES the word "is" mean?!

It depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is.
I don't know if any of you remember but a few years back when Bill Clinton was still president of the USA, he was embroiled in a scandal and an impeachment hearing.  One of the funnier moments was when he answered a question with a question saying, "It depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is?  This was followed with some back and forth questions/answers about the definition of "is" and at the time it was pretty hilarious listening to the antics of Clinton et al.  I mean, I've never thought people who run for office had all that many brain cells to begin with and then to have an argument over what "is" means?!?  Yeah, pretty silly.

At least, I thought it was silly until up until the other day when someone came into the law
Sometimes it's best not to say something twice
library asking how I might define the word "but."  "Really?!  You want me to define "but??!"  The patron was dead serious and so, instead of sending him over to Black's Law Dictionary (which is the final word on the definition of all things legal), I sent him over to look at Words and Phrases (West).  

So that you understand where I'm coming from, Words and Phrases is a set of books which contains words and phrases as they were used in court cases all over the country - both in state and Federal hearings.  It's actually a pretty useful resource when you not only need the definition of a word but how it is used in the context of a legal setting.

So, maybe you need to know what the word "nystagmus" is and how the courts might have used it in a legal setting.  For those who don't know, "nystagmus" is the involuntary movement of the eye and it comes into play when the police are checking to see if you've been drinking and driving - and it's in volume 28B.

Other terms and phrases of note might be "Byway" or "commenced" or mental pain and anguish" or "Ryan Warranty."  I mean, what in blazes is a Ryan Warranty, anyway?!?  Do any of you know?!?!  Well, you would if had you looked at volume 37B.

In any event, next time you get a hankering for needing to know something that you didn't know before, head on over to your local county law library - we're full of great ideas!