Exuberant Verbosity

Bernard Wolff, M.D.
JAMA. 1913;61(18):1648. doi:10.1001/jama.1913.04350190066031.
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To the Editor:  —Has the editorial writer (The Journal, Oct. 18, 1913, p. 1464) overlooked the historical fact that the exuberant verbosity of legal forms was not an intoxication, but a species of graft? Old English law-clerks were paid so much a word or a line for engrossing legal documents, and in consequence the more words used, the greater the pay. Every synonym, nearly or distantly connected, was drawn in and duly inscribed. A sentence lingers in my memory, taken from an old English common-law form of indictment for maintaining a nuisance in which it is alleged that "divers odors, savors, smells, scents and stenches did issue, proceed and flow therefrom." As the principles of lex scripta are said to be immutable, so also appears to be its language; for the same quaint, archaic phraseology, scarcely altered except in spelling, is used in legal forms to-day as in the days


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