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Spelling Bees and Legalese


The annual 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee is being televised today, with the Finals being shown this evening on ESPN. News and media outlets, both traditional and online, have taken to the event, as the Spelling Bee's popularity seems to grow each year.

Indeed, many of the attorneys at Slinde Nelson were involved in school spelling bees growing up, and we remain fascinated by the complexities and intricacies of language. (We are lawyers, after all -- it comes with the territory.) To coincide with the National Bee, we thought our Oregon and Washington area clients might enjoy a small test of their own spelling acumen, on a topic (unfortunately) very near and dear to us: Legalese.

(And do try to resist the temptation to merely Google the answers.)

Good luck!

1) An accounting method that records entries when the liability arises.
Accrual Method
Accrual Method
Accrual Method
Accrual Method

2) A written, sworn voluntary declaration of facts used especially in pretrial motions.
Affidavit
Affidavit
Affidavit
Affidavit

3) A writ commanding a person to appear before a court.
Subpoena
Subpena
Subpoeina
Subpoiena

4) Among other things.
Enter allia
Inter allia
Intre alia
Inter alia

5) Repossession of personal property wrongfully taken.
Repleven
Repliven
Replevin
Repeliven

6) A writ ordering a defendant to do some action.
Precip
Preacipe
Praecipe
Presipee

7) To modify or repeal a law.
Obrogate
Obregate
Obragate
Obrigate

8) A lawful act performed in a wrongful manner.
Misfeasance
Misfeasance
Misfeasance
Misfeasance

9) The act of wrongfully depriving someone of the freehold possession of their real estate or property.
Disseisin
Disesin
Disease
Dissonance

10) The act of annulling or setting aside.
Vacater
Vaucuter
Vacautur
Vacatur

Legalese was first coined in 1914 (though its use dates back much, much earlier) as a term for legal writing that is designed to be difficult to read and understand, its use characterized by long sentences with many modifying clauses, employing a highly complex vocabulary.

Luckily, for both clients and lawyers alike, a movement throughout the legal community toward adoption of the use of plain English in legal writing is in full swing. However, that gradual transition is not likely to help clients with questions regarding pre-existing contracts and other documents already in effect, nor is it likely to help certain National Spelling Bee contestants on stage in Washington this evening.

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