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Monday, January 12, 2009

If You Want to Make an Omelette . . .

As many of us head back to our offices and classrooms this Monday morning, here is another little quiz from the Freshness of Legal Discourse Department.  How many results does a Westlaw "allcases" search for "Humpty Dumpty" turn up?  Answer after the jump.

The answer is 535.  Some of these refer to people who are nicknamed "Humpty Dumpty" for various reasons, and others refer to the names of businesses (the "Humpty Dumpty Laundry") etc., but most of them are quotes from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, usually made to demonstrate some sort of statutory interpretation point or another.

I guess judicial writing isn't as fresh as it's cracked up to be.

Posted by Jay Wexler on January 12, 2009 at 10:10 AM in Jay Wexler | Permalink


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I'm looking for a professor/institute/foundation/philanthropist/generous fool, what have you, to subsidize my access to Westlaw so I can play too.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Jan 13, 2009 12:52:57 PM

professors are even worse than professors I meant "professors are even worse than judges." My writing is apparently neither fresh nor well-edited.

Posted by: krs | Jan 12, 2009 10:31:27 PM

"kafkaesque kafka-esque" gets 385 in allcases and 729 in jlr.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Jan 12, 2009 8:52:52 PM

Just how fresh is judicial writing cracked up to be?

In the "jlr" database, the number of results is 903. Anecdotally, professors are even worse than professors about being font of a small set of stale quotes from literature or otherwise.

"I come to bury" (of Julius Caesar fame, often lamely followed by the name of a legal doctrine, a statute or an institution) gets 46 hits in jlr, and only 1 in the allcases database.

"machinery of death" (of Justice Blackmun fame) gets 401 hits in jlr, but 31 hits in allcases.

(life /s law /s logic /s experience)-- gets 1187 hits in jlr, but only 328 in allcases.

I imagine that there are lots of statistical problems with side-by-side comparisons between jlr and allcases, particularly when one doesn't know how big either database is. Even so, by your measure of freshness, I think the academy is even worse.

Posted by: krs | Jan 12, 2009 5:13:16 PM

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