Physician, heal thyself.
Quotation of the Day

Have some pun

Do puns have a place in legal writing? Fifth Circuit Judge John R. Brown evidently thought so. Consider his opinion in Wood v. Diamond M Drilling Co., 691 F.2d 1165 (5th Cir. 1982) (sorry, can’t find a free copy on line), in which he riffs on the defendant’s name:

I. Diamond and the Roughneck
In exploring the many facets of this case, we begin with the DIAMOND M NEW ERA, a semi-submersible drilling rig owned by the defendant, Diamond M Drilling Company (Diamond). Mounted in the sapphire seas off the coast of New Jersey, Diamond's ERA is but one of many such rigs found along the Atlantic's jewelled coast....

II. Diamond is for Error
A. Loss of Future Earnings
Diamond argues that the jury’s award of $200,000 for loss of future earnings was excessive.... Diamond’s argument is flawed.
... We are not shocked, or dazzled, by what Diamond would have us believe is a forty-carat award....

Diamond polishes off its appeal by arguing that the District Court’s award of $30 per day maintenance was excessive.

Believe it or not, the pun is a time-honored rhetorical device. The Greeks didn’t call it a pun, though. They called it paronomasia. According to Silva Rhetoricae, paronomasia means “Using words that sound alike but that differ in meaning (punning).” Silva Rhetoricae lists several other devices for having fun with words while persuading people, including these:

  • Adnominatio (which sounds Latin to me): assigning to a proper name its literal or homophonic meaning. For examples, see the Wood decision by Judge Brown.
  • Antanaclasis: repetition of a word in two different senses. Example: “If we don't hang together, we'll hang separately.”
  • Syllepsis: Using a word understood differently in relation to two or more other words, which it modifies or governs. Example: “There is a certain type of woman who’s rather press grapes than clothes.”


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