May 24, 2006

Geographic Language

by PG

I ran across two turns of phrase lately that struck me for their disparity in coolness. The first was found at the Center for Moral Clarity's website. (I saw the Center's name on an amicus brief in the Supreme Court's document room, and felt compelled to verify that something with such a mockable name existed). I was happily surprised to find that the homepage featured a picture of people of color in the left sidebar; I was less happily surprised to see "Ministry Nurtures Christian Leadership on Dark Continent" heading their list of Top Headlines in the right sidebar. The American Heritage Dictionary's entry for "Dark Continent" says it is "A former name for Africa," and one rarely sees the phrase used nowadays except to point up that some given situation shows that is not the Africans who possess the heart of darkness.

Apparently judges or their clerks are better at creative writing than journalists are, as a 2005 First Circuit opinion offered a more inventive span of words: "To be sure, the en banc court has discretion to review all the issues presented by an appeal, even though the order convening the en banc court indicates a more isthmian focus." United States v. Padilla, 415 F.3d 211, 217. This offers the opportunity to use a rusty English BA for some textual unpacking. Does the opinion merely mean that the order has a more narrow focus than the wider-ranging appeal, or was isthmian deliberately chosen to convey a sense of bridging two masses?

May 24, 2006 07:54 PM | TrackBack
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