Saturday, October 28, 2006

Legal communication or legal confusion

The first time I was late for an exam in my life. It was a one-hour exam and I was just 12 minutes late. Fortunately, I was able to finish, but that's another story.

It seems like I am living in another time-zone. Or you could call it a huge first-year hangover. I never sleep before 5 am, and if there are classes in the morning, I hardly get any sleep. Yet the next day, I can't sleep early. It wouldn't be a problem if I did not love sleeping so much!

LAB. That was the exam I was late for. (Also the course that has the damned morning classes!)
And it is not a laboratory of any sorts. It's just legalese (the course title is Legal Aspects of Business).
What is legalese? "the specialized language of the legal profession" (Source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
This "language" is quite amazing. It has the ability to make a simple thing seems so complicated that even exponents of the "English" language may not be able to make sense out of it. The sentences seem to go on and on and on...

"where any packaging material bearing thereon the month in which any commodity was expected to have been pre-packed is not exhausted during that month, such packaging material may be used for pre-packing the concerned commodity produced or manufactured during the next succeeding month and not thereafter, but the Central Government may, if it is satisfied that such packaging material could not be exhausted during the period aforesaid by reason of any circumstance beyond the control of the manufacturer or packer, as the case may be extend the time during which such packaging material may be used, and, where any such packaging material is exhausted before the expiry of the month indicated thereon, the packaging material intended to be used during the next succeeding month may be used for pre-packing the concerned commodity:"

This is a clause from The Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1976. What do I like about it?
1) It is 132 words and not even a complete sentence! It does not start with a Capital letter, and ends with a colon!
2) There are 7 commas. I cannot figure out why there is one before an "and", and, one immediately after. It could be a typo, like in the aforementioned sentence.

Legal text is full of such inordinately long sentences. It is also full of a punctuation mark rarely used these days - the Semicolon.
The Semicolon is not a comma; it is not a colon (see I know how to use a semicolon too!) . It, like this blog, suffers from an identity crisis.
In his autobiography, A Man Without A Country, American satirist Kurt Vonnegut says, “Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”
There is another blog entry on this very issue of the semicolon. The comments are interesting.(

I rarely use semicolons. I am not a great writer, and though I know how to use a semicolon, I generally stick to using commas. I like short sentences that do not confuse others. Business communication is almost devoid of semicolons, probably because of the same reason.
It is not poetic. It is generally clear, crisp and unambiguous. Unfortunately, one cannot say the same about legal text or communication.

I remember my Uncle telling me about some legal hassle he had to face and a conversation he had with his lawyer about writing a letter.

Uncle: Ye chitthi bahut lambi hai aur kisiko kuch samajh mein nahin aayega. (This letter is very long and nobody will be able to make head or tail out of it.)

Lawyer: Saab, chitthi hoti hi hai confuse karne ke liye. (The purpose of the letter is to confuse others. They should not be able to make sense of it.)

Needless to say, my Uncle retained the services of that lawyer, and won the case.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Blog renovo-ed

It's been a really long time since the last post. More than a year now. I really can't figure out why I got this urge to start, and then within 50 hours odd, I stopped. I actually forgot about it, as ridiculous that may sound! Sometimes I did get reminded of the fact that I have registered on blogger while visiting other blogs, but they were only fleeting, and I never got back to it.

One of the most difficult things about having a blog is the name and the title. My earlier posts were under the name - wish2balive. It was just reflective of my mindset at that point of time. First term at IIMA was tough, and after the mid-terms, I just wanted to break the monotony of it all. Another motivation for starting the blog at that time were the blogging habits of my batchmates. Some were really good, and I was pretty enthused with the idea of sharing my thoughts on the net.
But all good things come to an end, and this blog also suffered its demise (that could be attributed to First Term as well!)

And so here I am, back again; still without a clue as to what I intend to post. Even if can ramble on about nothing for a few hundred words (another capability acquired here in Ahmedabad), I am still unable to think of a suitable title and the address for this blog.

I also suffered from this unique kind of writer’s block when I initially started last year. Wish2balive!!! I’m sure I could have come up with something better. But when I thought of starting afresh, I still couldn’t come up with anything. was simply changed to, and the title went through several iterations before I realized that this blog does suffer from an identity crisis.
Among the various titles considered:
“Random ramblings” – My girlfriend said that it’s too common. I agreed. Just out of curiosity I googled for “random ramblings” and – 195,000 entries! I know there are not as many blogs
“I’ll stop procrastinating from tomorrow” – That’s something I should do from today, but not good for a title. Too long!
I also searched for various names that would sound exotic and pseud, and ended up wasting a lot of time on an English-Latin translator!

So, if anyone reading this blog has any suggestions, please post them.