an odd example of legalese

Dan Goncharoff thegonch at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jan 28 15:07:01 UTC 2012

Here is what Reuters says:

“The Le Roy school is safe,” Hammond said. “The environment or an
infection is not the cause of the students’ tics. There are many
causes of tics-like symptoms.”


On Sat, Jan 28, 2012 at 2:06 AM, 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:      an odd example of legalese
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Since I don't have the full document, I don't know if the complete quote
> would have some redeeming features, but I don't see how it could.
> > An investigation by the New York Department of Health found "no
> > evidence of environmental or infection as the cause of the girls'
> > illness," according to department spokesman Jeffrey Hammond. "The
> > school is served by a public water system. ... An environmental
> > exposure would affect many people."
> In case there is any doubt, my concern is over the serialization of
> "environmental or infection", particularly without an underlying NP for
> "environmental". My guess is that the author either started out with
> "environmental cause" and expanded the sentence later or simply assumed
> that "environmental" was a modifier for "cause" in its present form. The
> former is not particularly interesting as a source of error--mere
> inattention--but the latter is. Another possibility is a straight
> omission of "exposure"--as it appears in the last sentence.
>     VS-)
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