Patterico's Pontifications


“Words Mean Things” Vs. “My Intent Governs” — Which Concept Should Win?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:01 pm

A lot of people have theories about language and meaning. It’s fashionable to reject anything lawyers have to say — and yet I think that people interested in theories of meaning and communication and language should pay attention to the law.

Let me make the case.

The civilized world runs on business, which is governed by agreements, which are formed through communication. This communication can’t be done in an ivory tower, because goods are being shipped and money is changing hands — and so the communication has to work. And when it doesn’t work, the dispute has to be resolved. And there, we turn to principles of contractual interpretation.

Courts have to decide what the parties meant — when the parties can’t agree.

I think these principles shed a lot of light on communication. I think they shed light on the discussions we have on blogs and blog threads. On the conversations we have around the water cooler. On communication in many aspects of life.

OK, here’s where it will start to look like legalese. If your eyes glaze, you can always skip over the quote and go straight to my distillation of it. I think it’s worth it.

When I was a law student, I had an epiphany at one point: the core concept of contracts can be summed up in the following language (the lawyers out there will remember this as Restatement (2d) of Contracts section 20) — which is written in legalese but which I’ll try to break down for you:


(1) There is no manifestation of mutual assent to an exchange if the parties attach materially different meanings to their manifestations and

(a) neither party knows or has reason to know the meaning attached by the other; or

(b) each party knows or each party has reason to know the meaning attached by the other.

(2) The manifestations of the parties are operative in accordance with the meaning attached to them by one of the parties if

(a) that party does not know of any different meaning attached by the other, and the other knows the meaning attached by the first party; or

(b) that party has no reason to know of any different meaning attached by the other, and the other has reason to know the meaning attached by the first party.

In my view, this section is the foundation of contract law. Let me simplify the language.

While speaking to you, I say “x.” It doesn’t matter what “x” is. It could be “you are a racist” or “isn’t it interesting that you have such views about black people” or “I see you oppose taxes. How curious.” Again, it doesn’t matter.

Whatever it is I say, you hear: “You are a racist.”

Did I say you are a racist?

Yes, I did — but ONLY if: a) I knew (or I should have known) that’s what you would hear, and b) you have no idea (and no reason to think) that I might have meant something else.

Note that I am not hostage to your subjective interpretation. If what I really said was “I see you oppose taxes. How curious” — then you had a reason to believe I was making a non-racist point. You can’t charge me with racism.

Here’s another related example. While speaking to you, I say “x.” I mean to be calling you a racist.

Is that how you should take it?

Yes, you should — but ONLY if: a) I don’t have any reason to know why you would take it any other way, and b) you know (or you ought to) that I mean to call you a racist.

Again, the “ought to” part is important. Listeners are not charged with accepting the unreasonable interpretations of speakers — any more than speakers are charged with accepting the unreasonable interpretations of listeners.

That’s how contract law says we should look at agreement. Reasonable interpretations matter — especially if one side of the communication has reason to know of the other person’s reasonable interpretation.

Under this mode of analysis, the speaker’s interpretation is not privileged over the listener’s, or vice versa. Instead, communication is seen as a two-way street. Interpretations are required to be reasonable — and it matters whether one party knows that the other party will interpret the words in a certain way.

I think this mode of analysis makes sense.

Do you agree?

This sort of analysis is applied every day across the land by courts tasked with the job of deciding what language means — when the parties can’t agree on what it means, because the communication broke down.

Please note: it gives either side of the conversation a chance to assign meaning to a statement. But that doesn’t mean you’re giving up any control over your meaning. It just means that you don’t get to unilaterally decide your meaning. It means that the other guy’s reasonable interpretation — and your knowledge that this is the only interpretation he might reasonably reach — these factors are relevant to the meaning that the words should be given.

This is anathema to the Intentionalists. But if we want to place any responsibility for the effectiveness of communication on the speaker — i.e. if we believe that Words Mean Things and that SEK can’t declare a ridiculous interpretation for his plain language — then we should consider this theory of interpretation.

What say you?

35 Responses to ““Words Mean Things” Vs. “My Intent Governs” — Which Concept Should Win?”

  1. This all assumes good faith, no?

    JD (4a5c67)

  2. The beauty of “reason to know” is that it cuts good faith out of the equation.

    When you see phrases like “ought to” or “should have known” or “had reason to know” that imposes an objective standard. Meaning that if you are being a dishonest and unreasonable douchenozzle, your interpretation doesn’t matter because we ignore it, and default to the interpretation you SHOULD HAVE HAD — i.e. the reasonable interpretation.

    Does that help?

    Patterico (64318f)

  3. Yes

    JD (4a5c67)

  4. It also eliminates the hidden ex post sarcasm excuse.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  5. This clearly obligates you to consider the audience of your communication, and use phrases, colloquialisms, and terms which you “reasonably” understand to mean to them what you are trying to convey. This is the responsibility of the speaker.

    The responsibility of the listener (but here I speak only of the TARGET AUDIENCE) SHOULD be to give the speaker the benefit of the doubt, and make a good faith effort to interpret what was said in the proper context.

    Where we get into trouble is where someone outside the target audience takes the speaker’s comments, and imposes a context not originally intended. Often one which yields an interpretation never intended by the speaker, but beneficial to the social agenda the “incidental listener” is trying to promote.

    The is disingenuous. It is often used to stifle dissent. Claims that the speaker should have KNOWN that “X” would be interpreted as (racism, sexism, etc) by SOMEONE eventually somewhere, and so shouldn’t have been said at all.

    Steve B (5eacf6)

  6. Claims that the speaker should have KNOWN that “X” would be interpreted as (racism, sexism, etc) by SOMEONE eventually somewhere, and so shouldn’t have been said at all.

    But that’s only half the equation. If the listener had reason to know the speaker meant something else, he can’t impose his unreasonable subjective interpretation on the speaker.

    There is an objective component you are missing.

    Patterico (64318f)

  7. So I guess that means I agree with your premise. Such that is SEK, for example, makes a clear and unequivocated statement in the title of a post the X is race-baits in his comments, and then only later in paragraph 27 of his post vaugely suggests that he was “just kidding” he loses credibility as a communicator. He failed — or willfully refused — to consider the “reasonable man” response to his post/title.

    Or, he fully considered it, and relied on the controversial nature of it to drive up is web traffic, while claiming wide-eyed innocence.

    Never seen THAT happen before…

    Steve B (5eacf6)

  8. If the listener had reason to know the speaker meant something else, he can’t impose his unreasonable subjective interpretation on the speaker.

    I would replace “can’t” with “shouldn’t.” My point is that this is exactly the kind of underhanded tool used to twist meaning.

    I agree that in a “reasonable” society, in which rational people are interacting in good faith, your premise holds.

    In a society or social millieu where people have a vested interest in intentionally promoting misintrepretation…

    But I agree that those who engage in the latter should be marginalized, and prevented from controlling the narrative for their own purposes.

    Steve B (5eacf6)

  9. Steve B,

    I think what this means is that I should have picked my interpretative battles more wisely.

    The principle isn’t really what matters — what matters is whose side you take.

    I’m not saying this about you — but I think the observation holds true in a global sense.

    Patterico (64318f)

  10. This is why it is so utterly dispiriting to me, Pat, when decisions like Roe and Kelo are issued.

    The plain meaning of the writers of the Constitution is twisted. Sure, as a country and society we evolve. So, too, does language. But, to make the case that capital punishment was seen to be “cruel or unusual” by the writers in 1787? Objective impossibility.

    Please keep fighting this righteous fight.

    Ed from SFV (1333b1)

  11. Ed from SFV,

    It’s worth noting, however, that the current hero of original understanding (Antonin Scalia) does not speak of the Framers’ “intent.” He speaks of what reasonable people at the time would have understood the Framers to mean.

    Reasonable understanding is the foundation of communication.

    Asserting the unique dominance of intent without paying any attention to reasonable understanding is self-centered narcissism for self-centered narcissists. Communcation is a two-way street. It just is.

    Patterico (64318f)

  12. The principle isn’t really what matters — what matters is whose side you take.”

    Completely agree. Siding with the “reasonable understanding” side to me, makes you a credible commentator.

    Steve B (5eacf6)

  13. But, to make the case that capital punishment was seen to be “cruel or unusual” by the writers in 1787? Objective impossibility.

    True, but I’m not aware of anyone who tries to make that case. Rather, for the most part, in my experience, opponents of capital punishment argue that today, considering the changes that American society has gone through since 1787 with regard to moral/ethical issues, capital punishment as currently effected constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. After all, readers in the 18th century may have interpreted this to mean that children as young as seven years of age could be executed by hanging. Few Americans today, I submit, would consider hanging seven year olds anything other than (subjectively) cruel, given that seven year olds probably are unable to fully consider and weigh the consequences of their actions and form criminal intent, and (objectively) unusual, given that a seven year old has not been executed in this country in a very long time in any state, and, therefore, unconstitutional. Do you know of anyone who tries to argue that readers of the Constitution in 1787 thought that that document intended to convey that capital punishment was unconstitutional? That would be surprising considering that the Constitution implies that the government may take a person’s life so long as due process is followed and that, as I understand it, children as young as seven could be and were executed at that time.

    Craig R. Harmon (8c86b5)

  14. After all, the language “cruel and unusual” seems intended to convey (or at least to admit the possibility) that each future generation might reach a conclusion regarding this or that punishment that might very well differ from that reached by the founding generation of citizens. Certainly forms of execution have changed as people considered this or that manner of punishment to be cruel and, as citizens’ sense of what does and does not constitute cruel punishment changed, certainly the founders might have foreseen that this or that punishment, though common in 1787, might fall out of favor precisely because future generations considered such punishments to be cruel, the incidence of such punishment might become unusual and thus punishments considered constitutional in 1787 might come to fall under the late 18th century American citizen’s perceived meaning of “cruel and unusual”, no?

    Craig R. Harmon (8c86b5)

  15. Regarding the post, I think that that makes sense. All communication, to have a hope of being successful, requires that the speaker/writer make a concerted effort to make his or her point as clearly as possible and that the hearer/reader make a good faith effort to understand what the speaker/writer is trying to convey. When it comes to contracts and other legal matters, that means that the author follow linguistic and semantic conventions commonly understood to apply to legal documents. That is, the reader has a right to expect the author to use words according to their commonly accepted meanings in legal parlance, that the author, for example, will not, later, during a dispute, say, “Oh, but I did not mean that passage to be taken literally; I meant it metaphorically.” By the same token, an author has a right to expect that other parties to the contract will read it according to those same conventions. Outside of the legal field, the intended meaning and the readers understanding may depend upon both being conversant in a very different set of conventions. Legal contracts cannot be written or read according the the conventions of poetry, for example. Miscommunication can often be traced to a confusion regarding the genre of a given communication.

    To take an example from biblical interpretation, much misunderstanding results from misidentification of the genre of biblican documents. Many read the Gospels, for example, as though they were written according to the conventions of modern historiography. Most biblical scholars, on the other hand, see this as anachronistic. That is to say that they see the Gospels as intentionally composed from mostly pre-existing traditional material not to be read as objectively factual or strictly chronological but as intentional propaganda intended to lead readers to think and believe in Jesus as the author thinks and believes. That is, that they are quite subjective in nature, that the authors or sources engaged in mythologizing the person and acts of Jesus.

    Without choosing between these two ways of understanding the Gospels, it is clear that which way of understanding the genre of the Gospels will go a long way toward determining how one understands the meaning and message of the Gospels.

    Indeed, given the ambiguities inherent in all languages, I think it is a wonder that communication is possible at all. To the extent that it is, it is likely due to common acculturation. That is, we learn to recognize, through various cues embedded in a communication, the intended meaning. Given that liberals and conservatives absorb very different cultures even within the same country and speaking the same language, it is not surprising that they may have a difficult time understanding one another, even when they intend to be understood by the other.

    Craig R. Harmon (8c86b5)

  16. “After all, the language “cruel and unusual” seems intended to convey (or at least to admit the possibility) that each future generation might reach a conclusion regarding this or that punishment that might very well differ from that reached by the founding generation of citizens.”

    Good point. Note, however, that it is the clear language of “cruel and unusual” you are citing to that leaves open the possibility. Very few clauses in the Constitution have such qualifying language and are much more concrete.

    Sean P (579fd6)

  17. Craig R. Harmon – Can you summarize?

    daleyrocks (718861)

  18. Maybe the concept that wins is that people should clarify?

    imdw (01dd72)

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  20. “Good point. Note, however, that it is the clear language of “cruel and unusual” you are citing to that leaves open the possibility. Very few clauses in the Constitution have such qualifying language and are much more concrete.”

    I’ve always enjoyed the 4th amendment’s prohibition on “unreasonable” searches and seizures. Thanks founders!

    imdw (017d51)

  21. Well, ultimately language is the product of a loose agreement in society. For instance, why do we call that four legged creature that barks a “dog?” Why not a “cat?” Because we all more or less agreed to do it that way.

    One fascinating subject is how American became different from English. It was deliberately done by Noah Webster. In writing his dictionary, Webster didn’t just report on the language, but actually proposed a change, so that we spell “colour” as “color” and so on.

    And indeed the history of English is interesting on the subject too. Basically it is a mash up between the anglo-saxon language of the native Englanders and the French spoken by their Norman conquerors. A similar thing happened to create Tagalog, the major “native” language of the Philippines. It is a combination of the Malaysian dialect that existed before the Europeans arrived, with Spanish.

    Now I think in most cases the ordinary and accepted meaning of a word should be presumptively the meaning. But yes, intent has to matter. I mean, my gosh, in our society there are things such as jokes, satire, irony, etc. if we paid no attention to intent we would soon render ourselves idiots. We would end up saying, for instance, that Jonathan Swift is an awful man because he advocated for cannibalism. I mean that is as stark as an example showing the difference between the effect of taking words literally and recognizing the value of intent as you are likely to see. Swift doesn’t mug and wink in that. You just have to take it as read as he wasn’t serious when he wrote it. His literal words were monstrous, but his intent was benign.

    Where that gets complicated, though, is when the joker then also tries to make serious points. Al Franken for instance freely mixes facts and satire, and the result is people often believe the satire to be fact. But when he gets called on it, with charges that he defamed people on this subject or that, then he suddenly says, “oh, that is satire.” And sometimes it is, and sometimes he is using that fig leaf to get away with what was really defamation. But in that case, the reader should be forewarned that fact and fiction (as in humor) is mixed freely in his work and should demand clear labeling of the facts and the jokes to differentiate.

    I mean I am reminded of the classic south park episodes on Mormonism and scientology. First they had an episode on Mormonism where they reveal the frankly crazy crap that the mormons believe with the message of more or less, “Mormonism is a uniquely crazy religion, but we really shouldn’t get hung up on that.” But I think they realized a lot of people didn’t know if their representation of what mormons believed was true or not. So when they decided to mock scientology, they put the words “this is what scientologists really believe” on the screen. And then of course when they mocked the controversy over that episode and Chef’s departure, they depicted the Super Adventure Club’s (or something like that) made up beliefs, using a similar message on the screen.

    Now other thing all of this brings to mind is the endless attempts to find racism in this thing or that. The latest where congress, the courts and press are portrayed in an ad by a birther* as the hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil chimps in regard to Obama’s supposed ineligibility to be president. But because someone in the proximity of obama was depicted as a chimp, now it was seen as racist somehow.

    Of course there it gets real complicated really fast. First, you can’t say the message is “literally racist.” Obama is not literally the chimp. Instead these institutions are. So the entire exercise is in attempting to imagine a person’s intent. So its hard to say that intent doesn’t matter when the whole point of the exercise is not to determine literal meaning but to find the intent behind it.

    But let’s say it is a much cleaner example, where you have something like the posters comparing Bush to a Chimp, only now it is Obama. “Oh! That is racist!” the left would cry.

    But even then its not a fait accompli. For instance, suppose we found out the author of that message was himself black. Are you still convinced that racism is involved? And bluntly there is a generation of children growing up who are completely unaware of that kind of detail. For instance, as a kid growing up we would say, “eenie meenie miney moe, catch a tiger by the toe” and so on. it wasn’t until college when I learned that originally the rhyme used the n-word in place of the word tiger. My professor commented on how he would hear a child say that and take in a breath before they get to the word “tiger” worried the other word might come out. But in my life experience I had no idea about that association. And when I grew up I never uniquely associated black people with apes, watermelons or fried chicken. I know intellectually of that history, but I will say bluntly I don’t get it.

    So suppose I wasn’t educated about that sad history and I said obama looked like a chimp. Well as I said in the beginning the language requires a societal agreement on this sort of thing and I would say “how on earth can you say that a person who literally had no idea about these matters be said to have agreed on those meanings?” I don’t see how you can blame a person for being ignorant of an irrational stereotype; otherwise you create a situation where these words are almost like a booby trap.

    But even if you are aware that other people have seen black people that way, does that mean that you should have to avoid associating black people with those things, even if you don’t personally buy into that association? Suppose you are drawing hundreds of people of all different races caricaturing them all as “ape-like.” Because the fact is we humans do resemble apes to greater and lesser degrees—that is why scientists think we evolved from apes; I just deny that any one racial or ethnic group has cornered the market on the family resemblance. So the artist is drawing white people, asian people etc. in ways that accentuate their ape-like features; does he have to stop before drawing any African Americans that way, because he knows that other people have suggested that black people uniquely resemble apes? I say no. I say you are allowed to say, “I don’t agree to that meaning, even as I know that is some people’s meaning.”

    Why? Because as Noah Webster demonstrated, our conceptions of meaning don’t have to be merely reporting on what we see, but it can be aspirational, too. We can and should refuse to set race based rules on expression precisely because we don’t want race based rules.

    Think of the alternative. If we say “you can’t depict black people as apes” then you next have to wonder “who counts as black?” So then you have to come up with some sort of rule deciding who is black enough to count. Its invidious. You feel dirty just thinking about it. and then obviously the rule also has to count for thinks like fried chicken, and so on. so then I guess everyone has to be educated to learn about all the invidious stereotypes associated with each group throughout history.

    And more ridiculously, if you put the rule in for anyone associated with obama then you have to define how close the association has to be. I mean, if we depicted Kevin Bacon as ape-like, because I bet I can connect him to obama is around 6 steps.

    But if we take my approach, we rob those old stereotypes of their power. But then again power is what this is all about, isn’t it? its about using this to just try to shut people up, or to discredit them. And it is ultimately wrong headed because it is an ad hominem issue. The argument of the Birthers doesn’t suddenly become bad if they are racists; nor does it become good if they are not. It is idiotic on its own terms, without resort to the ad hom issue.

    * I was tempted to call them “idiot brithers” but then realized I was being redundant.

    A.W. (e7d72e)

  22. I say that if there is no acceptance of the idea of universal truth, there can be no agreement on the meaning and consistency of words.

    In a post-modern world there can be no expectation of communication. Aside from some outside compulsion such as court enforced agreements, words can only be used for manipulation.

    There is no communication. It is as imaginary as truth. There is only compulsion or manipulation.

    Amphipolis (b120ce)

  23. If a writer in the public sphere gives insufficient thought to reasonable interpretation, he earns what he gets. With some thought, the bulk of a bell-shaped curve can be communicated with. Outliers will interpret the communication to mean almost anything.

    Most of us have paid a price at some time or other for speaking or writing without sufficient thought, I certainly have. However, past a certain point, trying to second-guess how a given statement might conceivably be interpreted is self-defeating. Which is why it’s almost impossible to talk to extremely sensitive people, folks who assume moral superiority or ill intent, or those who redefine words at will to suit themselves.

    jodetoad (059c35)

  24. I didn’t carefully and fully read all of the events underlying this flap–it didn’t really appeal to me–but I did read enough of SEK’s defense to notice he sort of made a defense regarding interpretation that I recall seeing in the UCC: “course of dealing,” as it were.

    I believe SEK said something along the lines of “I’ve used that sort of humor in my headlines before and you, as a reader of the blog, should know that, Patterico.” That strikes me as possibly saying, “Maybe other people unfamiliar with my work could have had your interpretation, but you should not have had that interpretation as a regular reader of my blog.”

    Since we’re not dealing with an actual contract here, I thought it’d be fun to interject the UCC’s analysis into the issue. I don’t think it’s a very persuasive argument, but it’s interesting to note the law does leave room for interpretation of words to be governed by reference to “reasonable interpretation plus” (with the plus being past course of conduct, usage of the trade, course of dealing, etc.) I bolded “possibly” in the above paragraph because I’m not really certain SEK made the argument I advanced.

    [P.S. long time reader of the blog; don’t think I’ve commented before.]

    Cory J (e9e07a)

  25. Hi, Cory J. It is always good when a lurker joins us.

    JD (4c5397)

  26. “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,'” Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!'”
    “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,'” Alice objected.
    When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

    Mitch (890cbf)

  27. Absolutely, words mean things, and there is a great deal of onus on the speaker to make his meaning clear.

    The more difficult question, in my opinion, is what to do when multiple groups of reasonable listeners have different interpretations of the carefully chosen words of a speaker. Does the onus revert to the respective groups of listeners, at that point? Or does it remain on the speaker? Put another way, should a speaker be expected to be so clear that everyone understands his intended meaning, that his words couldn’t be interpreted in any way but one?

    So, if one group of reasonable listeners thinks what SEK said was innocuous (assuming for the sake of argument that is such a group), and another group of reasonable listeners thinks what SEk said was race-baiting, which group is right? What is the responsibility of the speaker, at that point?

    (It seems that the best thing for the speaker to do would be to clarify his intended meaning to one group or another, but is that the speaker’s responsibility?

    Leviticus (30ac20)

  28. This is anathema to the Intentionalists. But if we want to place any responsibility for the effectiveness of communication on the speaker — i.e. if we believe that Words Mean Things and that SEK can’t declare a ridiculous interpretation for his plain language — then we should consider this theory of interpretation.

    For the record, I’m not an intentionalist, nor am I privileging my own intent here — otherwise, there would be no need for a clarification. Here’s the key difference between me and, say, You Know Who:

    If you say, “Scott, I can’t believe you said that!” and I didn’t think that’s what I said, you’re not going to receive a 10,000 word justification for why you have to accept that I mean what I said I meant because intention is next to godliness and if you think otherwise then the liberals and terrorists have already won. Instead, you’ll get an explanation that attempts to explain how I thought my logic worked. In other words, I wasn’t defending what I said, I was explaining what I meant. You can choose to accept that explanation or not, but I’m by no means claiming that I’m the only one allowed to interpret my words.

    This extreme version of Walter Benn Michaels’ intentionalist argument — which is where You Know Who got it from — is refuted by none other than Walter Benn Michaels, who declares that a theory in which difference supercedes disagreement, which is to his, mine, and Patrick’s mind, a bad thing.

    Let me think through this a little more and comment again later.

    This clearly obligates you to consider the audience of your communication, and use phrases, colloquialisms, and terms which you “reasonably” understand to mean to them what you are trying to convey.

    And this is why communication breakdowns happen so often online. It’s unavoidable. If I title a post “Our Kenyan ‘President’ is a Racist,” everyone familiar with me will know I’m being sarcastic because I’m not a birther; but if you’re just some random liberal who’s stumbled across my blog, you might think me a birther and attack me. Given that there are far more people on the internet than there are people who know any given blogger, I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more often than it does.

    SEK (9e7eee)

  29. California does not follow that analysis in case law, but uses the “objective/subjective” two step analysis. That analysis does not follow a two-way street mechanism, but rather a “fill-in the gaps” idea.

    Putting that aside, the purpose of this doctrine is to allow parties to get out of contracts by arguing that they meaning they attached to a word is different from the meaning another side is attempting to enforce. In reality, that devolves into (a) freak terminological coincidences, such as there being two ships with the same name following the same route (a contract law chestnut) or (b) claims of pure negligence, where one party claims that their understanding was not what the facts were and the other side SHOULD KNOW that the negligent party was negligent.

    That’s why these principals fail as a model for actual communication among peer adults, because they impute a duty of a speaker to take into account the ignorance or negligence of the other side. This doctrine is a doctrine of evasion, not communication.

    Cyrus Sanai (311cd8)

  30. #17

    Craig R. Harmon – Can you summarize?

    Comment by daleyrocks — 12/4/2009 @ 5:40 am

    Constitutionally I don’t seem to be capable of brief summarization. 😀

    Although, I prefer to say that my verbosity constitutes my good faith attempt to clarify the communication of my thoughts so as to assist the reader in understanding.

    Craig R. Harmon (a0c9f8)

  31. “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”

    He carried the valise out to the car-park, and proceeded to put it in the boot. He then went back indoors, and used the lift back to the flat.

    AD - RtR/OS! (1f5025)

  32. Patterico – How does the use of codewords and dog-whistles fit into this construct, especially when the person using those tools belives themselves to be reasonable?

    JD (bdd997)

  33. Thanks for all the comments on my prior post (#10).

    How about is the language chosen back then was “barbaric” instead of “cruel and unusual.” There simply comes a point where generations of settled understanding by reasonable people, aka the citizen-voters, must be given extreme weight in deciding the meaning of statutes, codiciles, decrees.

    For the three most recent generations of the intelligentsia and ruling class of the left to bastardize these meanings through judicial fiat – and NOT by having the public debate where, by definition, the most reasonable understanding of meaning arises, is to lie.

    Don’t get me started on what a “peer” is.

    Ed from SFV (1333b1)

  34. How about if (not is). apologies for the poor editing.

    Ed from SFV (1333b1)

  35. Words from a movie: If you can not say what you mean, you can never mean what you say.

    ropelight (a59e3f)

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