Love padlocks/Lucchetti d’amore


When I saw this padlock (Vorhängeschloss) on the Porcellino statue in Florence, I didn’t understand it. Now I think I have found the solution: love padlocks.

Apparently 5,500 were removed from the statue of Benvenuto Cellino on the Ponte Vecchio in the winter of 2005-6.

One is supposed to stroke the boar statue if one wants to come back to Florence. I did that. But then I have never stroked the ring on the Schöner Brunnen in Nuremberg, and I keep finding myself back there, so maybe the chances are slim.

Age of criminal responsibility/Strafmündigkeit

I found a reference yesterday that suggested Tony Blair reduced the age of criminal responsibility in the UK from 14 to 10 (14 is the age in Germany and 10 in England and Wales).

Anyone who remembers the two eleven-year-old boys in Liverpool convicted of the murder of a toddler will know the age of criminal responsibility has always been 10 (apparently 8 in Scotland).

What I had forgotten was that there really was a change under Blair: there used to be a get-out condition, in that a child aged between 10 and 13 could only be convicted if he had mischievous discretion, which meant that he knew what he was doing was wrong. There was a presumption (Vermutung) that the child was doli incapax (incapable of committing a criminal offence). I don’t know how often this worked in court, but it won’t have made any difference in the cases of murder that make the headlines.

At all events, this doctrine of doli incapax was indeed abolished, as was the presumption that a boy under 14 is incapable of rape. Here’s Lord Goodhart speaking on the subject in the House of Lords in 1998:

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 174 proposes the abolition of the rule known by one of those tiresome expressions of legal Latin, doli incapax. The doli incapax rule has come under considerable attack in recent years and that attack is indeed, I believe, to a large extent justified. In many cases the presumption that a child or young person under the age of 14 does not know that what he is doing is seriously wrong is indeed contrary to common sense. It is a waste of time and money to call evidence to prove what is in fact obvious: that a 13 year-old defendant who has done something extremely unpleasant knew that his conduct was seriously wrong.

As Goodhart suggested, it would make more sense to reverse the presumption, thus saving court time.

This move was correctly described in German as a reduction of ‘das Alter der unbedingten Strafmündigkeit’ (Google gives examples). But the ‘unbedingt’ has sometimes been omitted.

Books on legal English footnote/Bücher über Rechtsenglisch Nachtrag

Of course I remembered more books. I will use this current entry for anything else that occurs to me, so come and check it again in future.

First, there are books on legal English by Peter Tiersma. The one I know is called Legal Language. It’s a good read and need not be read from cover to cover. There’s also one called Speaking of Crime, which I don’t know. Plenty of information on Peter’s website about these.

Then there are books on legal style, for instance those by Mellinkoff, which are particularly good. These can be particularly helpful for translators out of English, for instance if they want to know if a doublet (such as aid and abet, let or hindrance, cease and desist) contains two ideas or one.

Thirdly, I had forgotten that the University of Cambridge is introducing a legal English qualification with course materials. This is a rather ambitious project. I did investigate the materials in a previous entry. Here’s a link for further investigation, and here’s one to the book. The book can be bought now for £26.95 – student’s book with three audio CDs, suitable for class work or self-study. It looks fun, but I notice it doesn’t distinguish between British and American usage all the time – the author is probably American.

Books on legal English – particular/ Bücher über die englische Rechtssprache – Details

If you want a monolingual dictionary of U.S. law, the only Blacks Law Dictionary worth getting is the big one. Don’t get an abridged Blacks. But you don’t have to get Blacks: Gifis (also known as Barrons) and Merriam-Webster are both excellent. I have a feeling Merriam-Webster is on the Web somewhere. There are at least two sizes of Gifis: get the largest. Both Gifis and Merriam-Webster date from the late 1990s – you could check the publisher to see if a new edition is due, although it doesn’t matter, as the latest information can be found on the Internet.

If you want one for the UK, or more likely just for England and Wales, Curzon, or Mozley and Whitely, or Osborn, or the Oxford Dictionary of Law (the latter has fewer and longer entries) are all OK.

Legal terminology
On legal terminology in general, there are some promising books around that I don’t know – three U.S. ones entitled Legal Terminology, by Gordon Brown, S. Whittington Brown and Cathy Okrent. Some Internet research will produce extracts to look at, either at or on the publisher’s website.

Garner’s Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage is a great book, but not of much interest to most people. Don’t buy it without looking at it.

A curiosity that no-one I know likes but that has some good material in it is Pons Fachwörterbuch Recht (based on a Peter Collin English dictionary). The main body is an English-for-foreigners English law dictionary, which Klett Verlag has spruced up with German equivalents (good German equivalents) and a German index. This is not supposed to be a bilingual dictionary. It has definitions and sentence examples. I think people feel it’s below their level in some of its entries, but it is worth having a look at.

Vanessa Sims: English Law and Terminology. A Guide for Practitioners and Students, ISBN 3 7890 7020 3 (for first ed. 2001 – maybe there is a later one). This is an outline of English law, with important terminology marked in bold.

Coursebooks with a variety of texts
These coursebooks tend to remain in print for only a few years, so it may be that you can’t get hold of recommended ones. Try to see them and see if their glossaries save you time. Alternatively, you can use a dictionary and the Internet to find vocabulary you don’t know. For instance, enter into Google: define:manslaughter. That produces six definitions. In the long run you’ll have to rely on your own resources in any case.

An example of possibly out of print: Donald R. Black, Black’s Legal Reader, ISBN 3 933 76330 4, 1998 (überarbeitet 1999), but Google suggests it’s still being used there. May be possible to order, or to buy at a law bookshop in Hannover, where it originated. I should think that law students could exchange details of a lot of local scripts via Internet forums. I’m sure there are numerous books of this kind that are all good but not sold nationwide.

I think the most widely sold book of this type with a German slant is Professor Sharon Byrd’s Einführung in the anglo-amerikanische Rechtssprache – new edition of two volumes is apparently in the pipeline. These are good books with excellent texts and based on great classes, some of which I have attended myself – and of course the interaction between teacher and class is missing in the book. I don’t like everything the publisher has done to this. For instance, after every section comes a block of Terminology, followed by a block of Vocabulary. We are supposed to believe that Terminology and Vocabulary are separate things. Pity the poor author. You know that IANAL means ‘I am not a lawyer’, so maybe ANAL means ‘I am a lawyer’ – or rather a law publisher. All the Terminology (ie the legal terms) is repeated in alphabetical order in the index. So you save time looking things up as they come once in the order encountered in the text and once alphabetically. But you lose this time again, I suppose, turning pages from terminology to vocabulary. Anyway, the book comes out rather long, just over 50 pages being repeated, and thus expensive. I am not that keen on the way the definitions are written, but that’s because I spend all my time thining about language. I prefer the Alpmann scripts with some German terms in the margin – at least in principle, but unfortunately their materials are not in native-speaker English and their German equivalents are not ideal (OK for many readers, but not to give translation students). Another thing I don’t like is the publisher’s attempt in the second edition to cover English as well as American law. This means we get sections where English law is described – very well but not perfectly – by an American, or there’s a reference to the word heirs in the English section, whereas the word is no longer used in English law, or we’re told that jury is singular in U.S. English and plural in British English, – not so, it is either singular or plural in BE.

I mention this book because if I don’t, people will think I don’t recommend the book. On the contrary, it is very good and most people will not be affected by the AmE/BE problem.

Astrid Tangl more here, English for Lawyers and Law Students. With a Short Introduction to the US Legal System, ISBN 3 7143 0106 2 (or 978 3 7143 0106 9)
This is by an Austrian judge but the English is first-rate. Apparently she co-teaches a course on legal English at Innsbruck University. I find it a touch on the expensive side at EUR 24.30 (for 130 pages plus an index of concepts and a bilingual vocabulary list), but sometimes better a short book than a long one. The contents include a brief description of the US legal system, with some case reports and diagrams, and some lists of terminology with German equivalents. Good layout.

Francis Henry, Kevin Pike: English law and legal language: Introduction. Eine Einführung in das englische Rechtssystem und die englische Rechtssprache. Sprachenzentrum der Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, EUR 15. ISBN 3.9810877-0-4 2006
I have already mentioned this, so I mention it again. For British English. I am not saying this is the best on the market, but it looks good. I have a couple of other books I am not even mentioning because I suspect they are out of print.

Some miscellaneous suggestions
Michael Jewell, An Introduction to English Contract Law: For German Readers with Exercises, ISBN (for first ed.) 3 7890 5006 7
There is not much German in here, but the text has a comparative-law element. For example, mistake and Irrtum have different places in English and German law, and the section on Mistake begins with a section on the relationship between English law and German law

Glanville Williams, Learning the Law
An introductory book for English students. The author is long since deceased, but I have a 2002 edition. The book contains a lot of useful trivia, including pronunciation of law French and legal Latin, law libraries, the system of precedence, how to pass exams and so on.

I am sure I have forgotten some books worth mentioning, but I’ll add any that occur to me here.

LATER NOTE: Further suggestions are contained in this following entry.

Books on legal English – general/ Bücher über die englische Rechtssprache – allgemein

I wrote a whole screen on how you should choose a book as carefully as you choose your toothpaste, but I suspect people want concrete advice. That follows in a later entry.

Here’s the general waffle:

Books to learn legal English /Bücher zur englischen Rechtssprache
This topic came up in the comments recently.

The question was, ‘Which books can be recommended?’, but the first question has to be ‘What do I want to learn?’

What do I want to learn?
Listen, speak, read write?
English law? U.S. law? Other?
A broad introduction or specific areas of law?
The court system?

How do I prefer to learn?
Reading? Reading a collection of texts or a continuous text? Find explanations of words in the book or in a dictionary? in English or German?
Doing exercises? Do I need a key to the solutions?

Why did the publisher publish this book?
Be suspicious about publishers’ adverts for books. They may say the book is for law students AND translators AND interpreters AND trainee translators and interpreters AND practising lawyers, but who is it really for?
They may say the book teaches British and American English, but does it really?
And don’t be taken in by a catchy title – look at the contents (conversely, a Denglish title may be the work of the publisher, not the author)

Can I find a course?
If you can find a legal English course at your university or elsewhere, that is probably the way to learn about legal English with the least friction. You will probably have a textbook and an incentive to read in advance and review afterwards, and to talk in English about what you read.

What type of book is available?
Books in German on English or US law, giving the English terminology, sometimes with a language index
Books in English on English or US law, sometimes intended for readers from other legal systems
Course books for law students in non-English-speaking countries: some have a German bias and some German translations, some are for a wider audience. Contents often contain comprehension texts and language exercises.
Reference works in English
Books on legal terminology
Don’t forget you can find all kinds of materials on the Internet, including legal weblogs, podcasts, videoclips at Court TV (and presumably on Youtube too).

Counsel / Berufsbezeichnung

The various uses of the word counsel are confusing enough to those new to common-law countries without Allen & Overy creating a new definition.

In England and Wales, counsel means a barrister (two counsel – no s on the plural – means two barristers). In the USA too, the term applies to a lawyer in court. But the words of counsel after a lawyer’s name mean something different: that the lawyer is a consultant to the firm, for example, or assisted in a matter without being the main lawyer in the case.

But at Allen & Overy, according to RollOnFriday:

The track to partnership stays the same, but an alternative role of “counsel” will be available to a very limited number of senior associates. They can expect to earn between £150,000 and £230,000 basic, again with a bonus of up to £50,000 on top.

Another term new to me is PSL or professional support lawyer. Here is a definition from the mysteriously named British Law site:

The role of Professional Support Lawyer (PSL) was established more than 10 years ago and utilised the skills of lawyers looking for reduced hours (often female lawyers). Support work is now a career in its own right, and PSL’s may even achieve partnership in law firms. Most PSL’s play a part in a firm-wide support function, while others join specialist departments such as corporate and commercial property. New areas of work now include support for IT projects.

Easter meme / Osterstöckchen

Thomas Klotz of RA-Blog has offered me a meme, so here goes, before it’s too late.

Was bedeutet Ostern für dich?
Nichts besonderes. Ich darf nicht vergessen, dass Ostern ein wichtigeres Fest für Christen als Weihnachten ist.

Feierst du Ostern bei dir zu Hause?
Feiern nicht direkt. Ich muss arbeiten, es gibt auch keine störenden Anrufe von Kunden. Ich übersetze einen Domführer, also da ist schon etwas Religiöses. Ich habe vergessen, den Papst im Fernsehen zu schauen, tue das aber manchmal.

Was gibt es an den Feiertagen zu essen?
Nichts besonderes. Ich habe am Karfreitag Lachs gegessen, eine schlechte Idee, weil es das letzte Stück Lachs in Fürth war und Dill war überall ausverkauft.

Versteckst du noch Osternester?
Was heißt hier ‘noch’? Ich habe noch nie im Leben ein Osternest versteckt. Ich weiß auch nicht genau, was ein Osternest ist.

Bemalst du selbst die Eier?
Niemand bemalt hier Eier.

Welche Technik verwendest du?

Hast du eine bestimmte Osterhasen-Schokoladen-Marke?
Eventuell Gubor, die waren aber alle weg.

Wer macht das Osterfrühstück?
Ich, natürlich.

Bekommen die Kinder noch etwas anderes geschenkt außer Süßes?
Wenn es welche gäbe, nein.

Hältst du Fastentage?