Down With Plain English
From the Michigan Law Journal, 5/97, written by one Alan Falk, a
Commissioner of the MI Court of Appeals, in Lansing... as a letter to
the editor of same.
"On behalf of abecedarians and logodaedalophiles, I rise to denounce the
paraphasts who wish to foist a "Plain English" law upon us.
Never mind that these soi-disant aolists have battologically assailed us
in the pages of our professional journal, condemning the lexiphanes and
logodaedalist with the same broad brush, in a feeding frenzy of
Must we all be consigned to become monoglots? There is an anecdote in
the banking industry. It seems a large East-coast bank was expanding
and planning to buy a small western financial institution. The
accountants from the home office were going over the books, trying to
put a price tag on the transaction. They found that a great deal of
collateral loans were "eewees" (they were cacoepists, suffering from
otosis). After much confusion, they were overhead by the janitor, who
knew the word for an adult female sheep ("ewe") when he heard it. What
is "common and everyday" language to the logomachists advocating a Plain
English Law may be inadequate to the task for we lesser mortals, who
have come to appreciate that the right terminology, supported by
commonly available lexicographic sources, is preferable to the
periphrasis of writing everything in crayon.
Let's do away with these somniloquent spintexts and quodlibertarians,
the way comedian Stan Freeburg did with "Mr. Tweeter", who wanted to
bowdlerize the song "Old Man River" ("Elderly Man River, that Elderly
Man River, he doesn't know anything, he doesn't say anything...")
The Plain English Movement achieves an acme of risibility when its own
purveyors acknowledge ("Why We Need a Plain English Law") that even they
cannot wholly explain what their own Michigan bill, if enacted, would
Shunting aside the ironic hypocrisy, the jurisprudentially sensitive
will be alert to the fact that such a law violates elementary notions of
due process, and would consequently be void for vagueness, since people
of common understanding would necessarily have to guess at its meaning.
Let, therefore, these engastrimyths speak for the xylophalic, not for
those of us who use, understand, and appreciate the mellifluous, the
alliterative, and the lexi-cographically precise."