Thursday, November 05, 2009

At Least Scalia Gets The Language Right

Acid-Tongued Righty Not "Gruntled" About "Choate"

When it comes to judicial philosophy and, well, probably just about anything else, I'm not in sync with Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, the righty power hitter on the Supreme Court bench.
But Scalia's a lover of words, as he makes abundantly clear in many of his tart, acerbic and always-considered opinions. You may not agree with what he writes, but you'll never be bored reading him.
But as the AP's Mark Sherman reports, Scalia decided a language lesson was in order from the bench. His antenna went up when an unwitting attorney said "choate," as an ostensible opposite of "inchoate." Scalia cried foul.
"There is no such adjective. I know we have used it, but there is no such adjective as 'choate.' There is 'inchoate,' but the opposite of 'inchoate' is not 'choate,'" Scalia said
Point taken. The attorney was ready to move on. Scalia was not.
"Any more than the, I don't know," Scalia said. "Exactly. Yes. It's like 'gruntled,'" he said.
The lawyer tried to continue: "But I think I am right on the law, Your Honor."
But Scalia wasn't focusing on the law. He was going to finish his English lesson. "Exactly. 'Disgruntled,'" he said, adding that some people mistakenly assume that "the opposite of 'disgruntled" is 'gruntled.'"
Such are the exchanges that cause lawyers to start drinking heavily after a morning at the Court.

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