in reply to Programming *is* much more than "just writing code".

Mathematicians, physicists, chemists and engineers go out of their way to avoid textual descriptions of their theorems and designs. Their nomenclatures have evolved over hundreds of years through hard won, practical experience. Much greater time periods than the computer industry, and computer code has existed. In every case, they have evolved not because someone decided that it would be a 'good idea'; or as a form of protectionism al la the use of Latin in religious ceremonies, legal work and matters of state; nor because they are too lazy to write their technical descriptions out in full in 'proper English' (French, German, Italian etc.).

Hopefully you'll pardon a nit-picky digression, on the grounds that it's at least mildly interesting.

Legal Latin belongs in the former group, not the latter. Legal writing has every reason to be precise, and the use of phrases from a dead language serve that end. They're useful because they aren't used or understood in other contexts.

Take the phrase, per stirpes: literally, it means "by the stocks". If your will leaves money to your children per stirpes, you're invoking a recursive algorithm. Each of your children represents a branch, and the money will be divided evenly amongst those branches, if anyone is left alive in them. So, for instance, you leave $100,000 to your five children per stirpes, but at the time of your death only three of them are alive. Poor Gregor had a tragic mushrooming accident, and left no children, so his share is divided amongst the other branches. Thus, the three who are alive each get $25,000. Unfortunately, your boy Ike died before you did... but he had five children. Four of them get $5000... but sadly, Ike's daughter Prudence was in the boat with him when the leeches attacked, so her two children wind up with $2500 apiece.

The legal definition of per stirpes accounts for more than this. You could insert the definition in each place you wanted it, as if you were expanding a macro, but whether the result would be clearer is dubious at best.

Even then, if your late son married, and then divorced, a woman with children, to they get shares? If second cousins from different branches married, had a daughter, and then died, does she inherit from both branches? A millenium of common law rulings clarifies a lot of unusual situations with per stirpes, but not the description of per stirpes you wrote.

The very fact that phrases like per stirpes and corpus delicti are foreign ensures that those using them mean something very particular. They are, in any case, no more difficult than comparable English terms, such as "replevin" or "tortefeasor".

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Re^2: Programming *is* much more than "just writing code".
by BrowserUk (Pope) on Jun 01, 2007 at 10:00 UTC
    "replevin" or "tortefeasor".

    I laughed, and I hope you will to. According to google, it should be "tortfeasor" (no 'e') by a margin of 322,000 to 6 :p

    None the less, your point is well taken. In the context of modern law, the use of these pointed, sparse remnents of Latin are indeed a shorthand notation with very particular meanings.

    In my defense, I was thinking more about the historical practice whereby all legal documents had to be enscribed entirely in Latin. A practice that came about, or rather survived, mostly because it meant that only the privileded few could produce, read or hope to benefit from them. Not to mention that it meant that laywers were required to produce and interpret them.

    To a great extent, the latter practice still persists albeit that the Latin content is not the root cause. For example, 25 years ago, when I purchased my first flat, it cost me 365 in laywers fees to complete the purchase of a 15% share of a 12,000 property.

    2 years ago, I self-conveyanced the transfer and sale of a let property (200,000;my previous home), and completed the entire transaction for 65. The only complications were due to the other party's lawyer raising and re-raising a series of totally pedantic points, in what the other party and I concluded was an attempt to put him off of the purchase, simply because I was not using a lawyer.

    Examine what is said, not who speaks -- Silence betokens consent -- Love the truth but pardon error.
    "Science is about questioning the status quo. Questioning authority".
    In the absence of evidence, opinion is indistinguishable from prejudice.