Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Judiciary Could Plotz

Brian
Judge Alex Kozinski (he of video game fame, who should really battle Roger Ebert to the death, first-person-shooter style) and Euguene Volokh (he of the Volokh Conspiracy, where I found this nugget in the first place) teamed up, originally in 1993, to track the cockamamie megillah of balebatisheh yiden and goyim who use Yiddish in court opinions:
The first reported use of "chutzpah" was in 1972, in an opinion of the Georgia Court of Appeals. We’re happy to say it was quite apt: breaking into a sheriff’s office to steal guns qualifies as chutzpah in our book. The four times "chutzpah" was used in published opinions in 1973, the courts didn’t even bother to give a definition. And, as we said, it’s been used over two hundred times since 1980. During the same period, the word "temerity" (a woefully inadequate substitute) was used only about two hundred sixty times, and "unmitigated gall" a mere thirteen.

Other Yiddish words have had tougher sledding. Variations on "kibitz" have appeared in seventeen cases; consider especially, Zannone v. Polino, a 1956 New York case with a moral, where kibitzing at a card game turning into a knife fight and a lawsuit—boys and girls, take note! "Maven" has appeared in fourteen cases, "klutz" in three. (See also Klopp v. Wackenhut Corp. (1992), which quoted one of the parties as contending "it had no duty to design the security station ‘for klutzes and total idiots’"). Also appearing in other cases, federal and state: "schlock" (1974 and again in 1993), "no-goodnik" (1991), "tzimmes" (1971), "rachmones" (1992), "a writ of rachmones does not lie" (1998), and, "Better the majority should worry about its umfarshtendenish of Rule 404(2), not Stephens’ chutzpah" (1991).

. . . .

"Noodge" appears only once--but in a U.S. Supreme Court case. Incidentally, that opinion was written by Justice Scalia, who’s also the only U.S. Supreme Court Justice to use "chutzpah" (the word, not the behavioral trait) in an opinion. "Schlimazel" is nowhere to be seen, even when spelled as "schlimazl," "shlimazel," "shlimazl," "schlemazl," "shlemazel," "schlemazel," or "shlemazl." "Schmooze" appears three times, the first time in--you guessed it--a Georgia case. Unfortunately, the judiciary of that great state stumbled that time, both misusing the word and misspelling it as "schmoose." We concede that Webster’s permits this spelling, but what do they know from Yiddish?
Link. The naches that I'm feeling right now . . . 'cause these guys are like mishpoche to me. When I read this, I let out a geshreeyeh, and I'm running with my friend . . . running around like a vilde chaye. So we've got the schpilkes . . . and it's a mizvah, what these guys did, and I want to try to give that back to you. Okeinhoreh, I say, and God bless 'em.

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