Query re the non-divinity of lexicographers

Bethany K. Dumas dumasb at UTK.EDU
Sun May 20 11:15:56 UTC 2001

>        A linguistically savvy friend of mine tried convincing a judge
>recently of the possible human failings of published dictionaries, and was
>met with visceral rejection. His concern arises from the observation that
>dictionaries are the primary source of linguistic wisdom among the
>judiciary (as if lexicographers didn't have enough weight on their
>shoulders!). He would like to be pointed to some good sources that might
>be useful in getting across the point that dictionaries are human products
>and might (sorry!) at times not attain the perfection that the judiciary

In the courtroom, I have had greatest success when I was able to show varying
entries among several dictionaries. I have published one article that might be

Dumas, Bethany K. 1991. "Humpty–Dumpty and the Law: Definitions in the
Judicial Process." ASTM Standardization News 19.12:52–55.

See also Wash. U. Law Quarterly 73.3 (1995) - "What Is Meaning in a Legal


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