Strange case of Russell Williams

Dan Goncharoff thegonch at GMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 19 18:36:47 UTC 2010

a Google search for "claw back" + Canada indicates that the phrase appears
to have a more general use in Canada to mean the retrieval of monies by the


On Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 2:28 PM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Strange case of Russell Williams
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>  There is nothing here that's particularly intellectually challenging,
> just a couple of observations related to reporting on a Canadian
> criminal case.
> Several aspects of the stories are odd, not just the case itself. To
> summarize the case, one of the top Canadian career military pilots and
> the head of the largest airbase in Canada yesterday pleaded guilty to a
> large number of charges, including two murders. The bizarre details of
> the case suggest the making of a serial killer, although, luckily, the
> streak was aborted at two.
> But enough about the case proper. I wanted to mention a couple of
> things. First, when I heard the first report of the plea yesterday, it
> was from a BBC news clip on NPR, and, among other things, the reporter
> mentioned that charges against Williams included "sex acts with women's
> undergarments". This seems to be a strange phrasing as I do not recall
> ever having seen a formal proscription against the practice (perhaps
> things are different in Canada). More detailed reports don't mention
> such specific charges, but do suggest that the man burglarized a number
> of homes, looking for lingerie, then either wore the garments or used it
> in his "acts", while still at the home, or simply stole them as
> trophies. So "sex acts with women's undergarments" appears to have
> simply referred to unlawful appropriation of objects with the lurid
> description of subsequent use simply being a verbal bonus, unrelated to
> the actual charges.
> Second, a report in the Ottawa Citizen (also in the Vancouver Sun and
> likely other Canadian newspapers in the same chain) used "claw back" in
> the text.
> > The military has told The Ottawa Citizen that it may claw back the
> > money he's been paid since Feb. 7, but his pension, reportedly around
> > $60,000 a year, is off limits.
> "Claw back" is a fairly common financial regulation and tax term, but I
> don't recall seeing it used in other context. A particularly catchy
> regulatory phrase is "claw-back provision":
> > A claw-back provision stipulates that the principal initially foregone
> > during the restructuring process will be repaid if the company’s
> > future profits exceed a certain level.
> > California is a notable exception to this. It employs a “claw-back”
> > provision, entitling the state to tax any gain on property that occurs
> > in California, regardless of where the property is eventually sold.
> > A clawback provision is contractual language that used in writing
> > performance-based compensation contracts. It allows a company to take
> > back such compensation if future events show that some or all of the
> > compensation was excessive according to the intended terms of the
> > contract. Thus, if a bonus is earned through chicanery and a
> > deliberate misstatement of financial results, that bonus may be taken
> > away.
> The "clawback provision" one is most likely to have heard about in the
> news is in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
> The OED /does/ have an entry for claw-back.
> > 2. [Substantival use of vbl. phr. to claw back (CLAW v. 2a).]
> > Retrieval, recovery (of an allowance by additional taxation, etc.).
> >
> > 1969 Daily Tel. 16 Apr. 24/4 It is..necessary to adjust the claw-back
> > for 1969-70 so as to reflect the fact that the 3s extra on family
> > allowances..will be paid for a full year in 1969-70. 1970 Sunday Times
> > 31 May 12 Labour's latest big increase in family allowances was
> > accompanied by what is nastily called ‘claw-back’, which means that
> > those rich enough to pay income tax at the standard rate or above have
> > the amount of the increase clawed back from them by taxation.
> There is also an entry for the verb, which is what appears in the
> Canadian texts.
> > 2. a. To seize, grip, clutch, or pull with claws. Also fig., /*to claw
> > back*/, to regain gradually or with great effort; to take back (an
> > allowance by additional taxation, etc.); /*to claw down*/, to pull
> > down, to defeat; to shoot down (an aeroplane, etc.).
> >
> > [...] 1953 Economist 21 Feb. 499/1 The Government would also make sure
> > that..such tax relief was clawed back from surtax payers. 1957 Ibid.
> > 30 Nov. 804/2 The Commercial Bank is engaged on a nationalist
> > enterprise{em}clawing back from the Sassenachs, control of one of
> > Scotland's banks. [...] 1959 Observer 21 June 26/8 Relaxing round the
> > last bend and clawing back a one-yard deficit in a prolonged battle up
> > the long home straight. 1970 Daily Tel. 30 May 16 This is a special
> > deduction which was introduced by the Finance Act 1968 to enable the
> > Inland Revenue to ‘claw back’ the 10s a week increase in the
> > allowance. 1971 Times 23 Jan. 18/5 The Labour Chancellor should have
> > increased family allowances..and ‘clawed’ it back from richer tax payers.
> [I deleted all the examples that do not involve "claw back"]
> All but one example in both entries refer to taxation and all are
> confined to a fairly narrow period (and all are clearly British).
> Perhaps it needs updating.
> Furthermore, the use of "claw back" hear appears to me somewhat
> different from the others mentioned, although it is perhaps even more
> literal. There is no real "ill-gotten gain" here, except for the salary
> that the man collected between the day of his arrest and the day of the
> guilty plea. This appears to be more blunt usage than the "nasty"
> suggestion of the tax code or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, although, in all
> cases, the phrase refers to recovery of funds under some pretext or other.
> VS-)
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