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Lawtalk: The Unknown Stories Behind Familiar Legal Expressions Hardcover – November 22, 2011


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Lawtalk: The Unknown Stories Behind Familiar Legal Expressions + Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (November 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030017246X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300172461
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,078,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Lawtalk combines enormous erudition with loads of levity-the result being a compulsively browsable book that will leave readers wordly-wise."—Bryan A. Garner, President, LawProse, Inc., Editor in Chief, Black's Law Dictionary
(Bryan A. Garner 2011-06-06)

"A genuine contribution in an area where precious little exists. Extraordinarily original and of even more extraordinary scholarship, truly erudite, researched and sourced. I would run to buy it." --Roger Newman, editor of The Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law.
(Roger Newman 2011-06-06)

“This imaginative book will enlighten and amuse not only lawyers, but anyone who thinks about law, talks about law, or has to deal with law—that is to say, all of us,”—Linda Greenhouse, author of Becoming Justice Blackmun
(Linda Greenhouse 2011-08-08)

"The language of the law is endlessly colorful, sometimes quite literally so: think of blue laws, green cards, blackmail and white-shoe firms. Finally we have an authoritative reference for all these terms and many more, written in a highly engaging style. Even if you're a shyster who couldn't indict a ham sandwich, at least now you'll know where those expressions came from."—Ben Zimmer, executive producer of VisualThesaurus.com and Vocabulary.com. (Ben Zimmer 2011-08-12)

Lawtalk is not just entertaining, but also quite educational. Lawyers, judges, and lay people interested in the workings of the legal system can learn a great deal from it,”—Peter Tiersma, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles.
(Peter Tiersma 2011-06-06)

“Well-researched and entertaining...a skillful mix of scholarship and readability...extensively documented with social, cultural, historic, and, of course, legal sources.”—Joan Pedzich, Library Journal (Joan Pedzich Library Journal)

"Lawtalk is serious scholarship . . . leavened with wry wit and a snappy style of writing that keeps one turning pages both to discover more and to smile more."—JoAnn Baca, The Federal Lawyer
(JoAnn Baca The Federal Lawyer)

"Elegant, deliciously detailed, and authoritative . . . demonstrate[s] that learning can be fun."—Glenn C. Altschuler, Huffington Post
(Glenn C. Altschuler Huffington Post)

Lively and entertaining . . . fascinating . . . a gem of a book . . . well-documented and well-researched . . . Lawtalk yields a multitude of interesting and amusing tidbits.”—Donna M. Fisher, AALL Spectrum (American Association of Law Libraries)
(Donna M. Fisher AALL Spectrum)

“Insightful and entertaining”—Spartanburg Herald Journal
(Spartanburg Herald Journal)

“Fun and well-researched.”—Howard Shapiro, Philadelphia Inquirer
(Howard Shapiro Philadelphia Inquirer)

"A group of distinguished professorial lawyers . . . tell us the history and meaning of lawyer talk.”—Jacob Stein, Washington Lawyer
(Washington Lawyer)

"Very well researched and comprehensive. . .The history behind each phrase is fascinating. . .Provides an enlightening insight into the countless pieces of ‘legalese’ to which we are all exposed daily, but have had little reason to question - until now."—Law Actually blog
(Law Actually blog)

“[Lawtalk] would be a treasured newcomer to any bookshelf and provides an enlightening insight into the countless pieces of ‘legalese’ to which we are all exposed daily, but have had little reason to question - until now.”—Law Actually
(Law Actually 2012-01-04)

“Insightful . . . [and] as entertaining as it is enlightening.”—John G. Browning, Southeast Texas Record
(John G. Browning Southeast Texas Record)

"A witty, informative collection . . . In a refreshingly candid manner, Lawtalk explores race, gender, and class issues associated with the evolution of commonly used phrases . . . Amusing, enlightening, and authoritative, this well-researched mini-reference is something readers will return to repeatedly."—Danielle Ochs-Tillotson, California Lawyer
(California Lawyer)

Lawtalk stands apart from many popular works on word origins for the academic rigor underpinning its accessibility.”—Rebecca Shapiro, Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America 
(Rebecca Shapiro Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America)

About the Author

James E. Clapp, a member of the New York and District of Columbia bars and a former litigator, works primarily in the field of legal lexicography. He is the author of Random House Webster's Dictionary of the Law. Elizabeth G. Thornburg is a professor at SMU Dedman School of Law, where she teaches and writes about civil procedure and alternative dispute resolution. Marc Galanter is John & Rylla Bosshard Professor Emeritus of Law and South Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and the author of Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture. Fred R. Shapiro is associate librarian and lecturer in legal research, Yale Law School. He is the editor of The Yale Book of Quotations, available from Yale University Press, and a major contributor to both the second and the third editions of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. G. Peacock on November 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is meticulously researched and immensely enjoyable to read. I loved learning about such expressions as the "thin blue line" (actually linked to the British red coats) and "green card" (which isn't green--at least not now--and a great example of "Spanglish," or how words move back and forth between English and Spanish). This well-designed, easy-to-navigate volume would make a great holiday gift for any legal mind or aficionado of language.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Nelson on December 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
If you like language history, this book is a lively read, and a quite engaging one too, not a dry listing of etymologies. While it should also be of interest to those in the legal profession, it focuses mainly on words and phrases of legal origin used in everyday life ("billable hour", "green card", etc.) rather than technical legal phrases, so non-lawyers shouldn't find it unnecessarily daunting. Many of the phrases have entertaining backstories that touch on a variety of historical incidents and accidents, so it's a nice route by which to get at some of the alleys and byways of legal history. The phrases themselves often make more sense once their origin is clarified, too. And finally, it's a good work of scholarship: the authors go to primary sources and comb archives to find the real origins of words, which in many cases are older than what existing literature usually claims (they even correct a few errors in high-quality sources like the Oxford English Dictionary).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Charles E. Dropkin on October 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The only thing that saved me on a packed 11 hour flight from NYC to Hawaii (with broken earphones and a sleeping girlfriend) was this book. Funny, insightful, completely repeatable (between naps my girlfriend got to hear the many "best ofs"), this book is terrific. As a lawyer, I've used or was familiar with virtually all of these phrases. Yet I had not before considered themes of the law in terms of color (blackmail, blue laws, green card, and white shoe), anatomy (Chancellor's foot, pound of flesh, or eye for an eye) or animals (kangaroo court, Jim Crow, and the law is an ass) - and the derivation of these terms is fascinating. Thoughtfully researched and entertainingly presented, half reference, half entertainment, this book has become a staple in my office, shared with friends and colleagues alike.
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By Elizabeth Ann Huffman on January 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Ever wonder where the odd expressions in the law came from, this book tells you...at great length. As a law student, soon to be lawyer, I wanted to know, and truly enjoyed the experience.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Thomas G. Field, Jr. on December 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found a disconnect between the cartoonish cover and the serious content. The cover suggests a wholly different book, one with far more levity.

I have no basis for faulting individual entries, but many had an unexpected, although not disagreeable, political overtone. Overall, a title, as well as cover, more indicative of content would have been helpful. Most notable however, was failure to present any overarching basis for selecting terms. Moreover, grouping items would have lent coherence to an apparently random enterprise.
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