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Monday, January 31, 2011

Mutatis Mutandis

Since people are writing about very serious subjects (health care, Egypt), I thought I'd start with something equally serious, and that is the use of the phrase mutatis mutandis in both legal opinions (not so much any more) and theory-heavy papers (still a bit more, I think).  I'm sure the Prawfs readership will know that the phrase means, 'changing that which must be changed' -- it's a way to draw logical connections or analogies as between arguments when one alters variables in the argument.

The phrase always makes me smile, especially since it is generally offered very seriously (Latin phrases convey deep thought), because in Italian, "le mutande" means "underwear" -- which colors the meaning of changing that which must be changed (sorry).  In fact, when I see the phrase, I actually start to think whether the thing that I am being asked to change is in fact in as much need of changing as a person's underwear.  Usually I decide not, and by that point I've forgotten the reason I was being asked to change it.  And I hope all of you will now make this association as well.

Thanks to Dan and the Prawfs for having me.  Next time, why ceteris paribus makes my eyes water, and the etymology of the word "baloney" (the late A.W.B. Simpson had a theory about this which was probably too good to be true).

Posted by Marc DeGirolami on January 31, 2011 at 06:18 PM | Permalink


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I'm waiting for a musical starring Nathan Lane of an adaptation of The Lion King's "Hakuna Matata" to "Mutatis Mutandis" imagining the audience in their underwear.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Feb 1, 2011 8:13:58 AM

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