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Tenacity of Law French

 

Most lawyers did not welcome this break with tradition, but were obliged to conform to the statute until in 1660 the restoration brought the repeal of Commonwealth legislation. Reports reverted to French, and the pleading forms to Latin. This, however, could not stop the onslaught of English, which had forced its way into the law, whether the older practitioners liked it or not. In many cases recourse to English simply could not be helped. 

Reports that persisted in French had repeatedly to use English when verbatim account was called for, as with the words of a will, or of the statutes – in English since 1489. Any account of English defamation also required English words. The reports produced incongruities that only served to make law French appear more ridiculous:

 

...un libel en Spiritual Court pur disant al auter “thou art an old bawd...”
 
 
 
...que le Defendant parle ceux parols al auter, My Little Boy in my house is Anne Distols Bastard, I wonder you will keep company with her...
 
 

Around the turn of the century the most important era of law French was passed. French was no longer the indispensable tool it had once been, since much of it by then had been absorbed into English. After 1704, despite the repeal of the Commonwealth Statute, all the reports are in English. Some three decades later, in 1731, a new English-for-lawyers law was passed by Parliament, decreeing that “...all proceedings whatsoever in any courts of justice within that part of Great Britain called England, and in the court of exchequer in Scotland, and which concern the law and administration of justice, shall be in the English tongue and language only, and not in Latin or French, or any other tongue or language whatsoever...” The statute was the final formal prohibition of law French. But its purpose was almost defeated two years later by the adoption of the amendment reinstating the customary law abbreviations and technical words. With a remarkable tenacity, fed by the conservatism of the profession, law French has lived on in “technical” words and sometimes disguised as English.

 

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  Tenacity of Law French

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  Doubling, Tripling & Quadrupling

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