Author: Joshua Liu
1 The proper use of language can be found through but never defined by editors, lawyers, judges, or other authorities under common law. Under this tradition, there is a high emphasis on maintaining coherency with how people have used words and the law in the past. The way to settle a dispute about the application of the law in this tradition is by haggling ― preferably by a localized jury ― with the history of similar disputes to reach a resolution that disrupts precedent the least. The meaning of law emerges from the bottom-up population; it is not directed by a top-down bureaucracy.
2 The meaning of words is embedded in the precedent of how they have been used before and cannot be removed from this precedent. Words are not tied rigidly to dictionaries ― we are able to understand words without dictionaries. If a dictionary editor ad hoc tried switching the definition of a ‘cow’ to the one that normally falls under ‘pig’ ― we would still understand that a cow is not a pig as there would be a lack of a precedent for such an application of the word in the past. The meaning of words does not come from codified definitions, but their proper usage can still be something much more exact.
3 The meaning of laws is embedded in precedent of how they have been applied before and cannot be removed from this precedent. Common law is not rigidly tied to statutes ― we are able to understand a system of law without statutes. If a judge or a legislator ad hoc tried switching the punishment for ‘murder’ to ones that that normally falls under ‘theft’ ― we would still understand that a murder is not a theft as there would be lack of precedent for such an application of the law in the past. The meaning of the law does not come from codified statutes, but its proper usage can still be something much more exact.
4 A word ― or a law ― that is trying to convey a meaning that jumps too far from how it have been used in the past is incoherent and is not being used properly. The meaning of any piece of text is embedded into the history of the surrounding language, broader history itself, and cannot be removed from this history to be independently analyzed or molded. A proper dictionary or law book so aids in the discovering rather than the prescribing the correct use of words or the law in the English tradition. There is no Académie Française for the English.