[I]ndeed it is one of the characteristic marks of English liberty, that our common law depends upon custom; which carries this internal evidence of freedom along with it, that it probably was introduced by the voluntary consent of the people.
— Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765) (Book I, pg. 74)
LONDON — The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court long have been Anglophiles, routinely turning to antique English cases to help decide issues from gun rights to terrorism.
The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist had gold stripes stitched into his robe to emulate the British Lord Chancellor’s costume in a Gilbert and Sullivan opera.
Now, the Mother Country is following the lead of its offspring. This month, the U.K. replaced its Law Lords — a committee of noblemen that served as the highest tribunal for much of Britain — with the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. It isn’t just the name that echoes the top American court. For the first time, the U.K.’s highest court is fully separated, American-style, from Parliament and its legislative function.
So, which version of this bedtime story do you like best?
And I thought Puritans had cornered the market on guilt.
If the United States mandates English as the de jure official language then invariably officials will end up defining what English is. And, that leads to absurd results.
Of course, the French are always good for a little absurdity.
Before a word such as “cloud computing” or “podcasting” (“diffusion pour baladeur“) receives a certified French equivalent, it needs to be approved by three organizations and get a government minister’s seal of approval, according to rules laid out by the state’s General Delegation for the French Language and the Languages of France. The process can be a linguistic odyssey taking years.
The English language is, and should be, an emergent phenomenom. (In practice, French is too, but there is nothing like a bureaucracy for building sand castles to hold back the tide.)
I’m kicking the smiley face, mom. I’m kicking it ’til it’s dead.
Princess Ella of Mercia
From A Man for All Seasons:
Alice More: Arrest him!
Sir Thomas More: For what?
Alice More: He’s dangerous!
William Roper: For all we know he’s a spy!
Margaret More: Father, that man’s bad.
Sir Thomas More: There’s no law against that.
William Roper: There is: God’s law.
Sir Thomas More: Then God can arrest him.
Alice More: While you talk he’s gone!
Sir Thomas More: And go he should, if he were the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!