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Black's Law editor plays Stump the Prof, opines on bloviation


The following story ran on the Sept. 20, 2012, edition of Thomson Reuters News and Insight blog. Bryan Garner is a research professor at SMU's Dedman School of Law.

September 24, 2012

Reuters - Ever wondered how Bryan Garner, the editor-in-chief of "Black's Law Dictionary," decides to give a thumbs-up or -down to particular words and phrases in successive editions of the definitive guide? Garner, who also happens to be Justice Antonin Scalia's co-author, sat down with me on Monday for a videotaped discussion of these and other burning issues of legal lexicography. In this clip at ReutersTV, the Southern Methodist University law professor gamely agreed to play Stump the Editor as I quizzed him on the meaning of legal terms he added to the most recent edition of Black's, published in 2009. Garner had no trouble defining the "sit and squirm" doctrine or "Schumer's box," but he had to go back to the source on "happy slapping." He also disclosed his favorite new phrase.

In a second clip, Garner talked about why lawyers are so inclined to bloviate, a problem he called "endemic to our profession." Those who "magnify the ratio of words to ideas," in Garner's nifty turn of phrase, should beware: According to him, they could be creating problems for their clients.

(Reporting By Alison Frankel)