"Abuse Excuse"

James E. Clapp jeclapp at WANS.NET
Sat Aug 7 04:38:19 UTC 1999

Bapopik at AOL.COM wrote:
>     "Abuse excuse" is showing hits all over the web.  Does anyone have an inkling about the first use?

I have long been curious to know whether Alan M. Dershowitz coined this or
was merely using a phrase that had been around a while when he wrote his
book _The Abuse Excuse_ [full title: _The Abuse Excuse And Other Cop-outs,
Sob Stories, and Evasions of Responsibility_] (Little, Brown, 1994).

One distinct possibility is that Dershowitz coined the phrase in a
previously published article and then expanded the idea into a book.  He
doesn't seem to claim credit for it, though; his introduction simply
starts out: "The "abuse excuse"--the legal tactic by which criminal
defendants claim a history of abuse as an excuse for violent retaliation--
is quickly becoming a license to kill and maim."  The book has a "Glossary
of Abuse Excuses," including everything from "Parental Abuse Syndrome" to
"Twinkie Defense" (though I recently read or heard something about a
lawyer in the Twinkie case claiming there was no such defense and it's all
an urban legend--or at any rate a distortion or confusion about the nature
of the defense raised in that famous anti-Gay hate crime).

If--excuse me, Barry, I mean *when*--you pin down the origin, let us know.
If I see anything relevant I'll post it.

James E. Clapp

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