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A Valuable Resource for Translators:
The Tenth Edition of Black’s Law Dictionary

By Barbara McClintock, C. Tr.

In May 2014, Thomson Reuters published the tenth edition of the dictionary first written by Henry Campbell Black in 1891. Black’s has been edited by Bryan A. Garner, a noted lexicographer and author, since the seventh edition published in 1995. Garner claims to review everything before it goes into the dictionary—a Herculean task. Black’s is very cutting edge with regard to both its terminology and its new iPhone app. I don’t think you could easily find some of this information elsewhere.

Why buy the new edition?

It took five years of research to prepare and it features over 2,000 pages and 7,500 new entries, with new material on each page. The number of sources cited has more than doubled. Over the years, Garner and his team of editors have been constantly revising entries, cutting some terms that were not strictly legal and adding neologisms.

Some new expressions in this edition are colourful slang: affluenza defense, benchslap, judicial diva, litigatrix and SODDI defense (“Some Other Dude Did It”). The entries are very complete. For example, the entry for affluenza defense, “anewfangled legal defense” (spelled defence in Canadian English by the way), is dated 2013. The term is a portmanteau of affluence and influenza. (p.71)

Garner takes a descriptive approach to selecting new entries and his criteria seem to be relevance and usage. This highly respected language expert does not shy away from controversial entries, e.g. benchslap, also written bench-slap. Defined as “A judge’s sharp rebuke of counsel, a litigant, or perhaps another judge,” the term is an “echo of the offensive and derogatory term bitch-slap (a slap delivered in order to humiliate its recipient).  (p.185)

The two following terms probably reflect the rise of women in the legal profession. A judicial diva, as you may have guessed, is “A particularly confident, skilled and physically attractive female judge . . . also termed judicial prima donna.” (p.975) I learned from the Black’s entry that litigatrix was first used in 1771 and historically referred to “a female litigant.” Today, it is a slang term for “An assertive and successful female attorney; esp. one who is particularly intimidating or ruthless, or shows a habitual animosity toward men.” (p.1075)

New to this edition, the first use of each term in the English language has been dated. The huge research necessary to do this was made possible by the digital age. Garner believes that the dictionary should provide a historical record of legal terms. The tenth edition of Black’s is definitely a “must have.”

Black law dictionaryBryan A. Garner, Ed., Black’s Law Dictionary, Tenth Edition, Thomson Reuters – West (U.S.A.), 2,016 pp, ISBN: L314-613004.

Please note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
Notez bien : Les opinions exprimées ici sont celles de l'auteure.


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