Rock carvings, channels, stories, and the young age of the Nile delta, all point to the Sahara being wetter and greener in former times. And the windblown soil of the modern Sahara fertilizes the Amazon.

If a deep-time climate study finds that the Sahara is one of the ‘permanent’ deserts, then perhaps the Nile emptying into the Atlantic in prehistoric times wasn’t such a big affair (and where? Some old delta deposits might be waiting to be found). And the Nile-less Egyptian area would have been a western extension of the Arabian Desert. Perhaps the turning point was when the Old Kingdom first appeared.

And would a green Sahara have made a less jungley Amazon?





If Zeus were a volcano (or an eruption), the birth of Athena fully-formed from his brow would have been a spectacular sight and, for the survivors, a memorable one.




John of Salisbury is talking in the context of students going to university and then getting jobs in bakeries (today it would be pizzerias) and so Cornificius (today it would be Adjunct Professor Dough) therefore wanting the industrification of the curriculum.

The carping hasn’t stopped. Today it would be grumpy old men.

Steve Pinker has come across them in the linguistic sphere (Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (Penguin, 2015)).

What the language purists do:
(pp 302–303): never look it up; have unsound arguments; confuse anecdote with the state of the world; use false dichotomies; base arguments on people, not reasons.

There is:
(p 300): misplaced emotion; the self-proclaimed defenders outdoing each other with tasteless invective; ‘The hyperbole often shades into misanthropy’, which tactic (p 192): ‘easily mixes with racism or class prejudice’

They present themselves as:
(p 298): unschooled or worse; their arguments are patently illogical; they reason ‘like Superman’s famous wardrobe malfunction’

Experts know; purists don’t know:
(p 195): purists are ignoramuses; ‘screwball reasons’

To declare that English should follow Latin, or that a word keeps its original meaning, is a
(p 200): ‘crackpot theory’

There is a choice phrase Pinker uses:
(p 219): neurologically intact

That will come in handy.

In sum,
Language purists belong to the GOM Squad of Commentary and come up with (actually, copy-paste) half-baked ideas that they expect everyone else to swallow.

Legal purists are, and do, the same.



Pinker’s book is quite good, by the way. Deep, easy to follow. Well-written. (Allusions are not footnoted; just assumed to be part of the Zeitgeist.)

Language (and mind) is all about strings, trees, and webs (of meaningful sounds and their visual counterparts, information transfer containers, and concepts).

Even dogs do it.

And probably everything else, too, for that matter.



Looking at the Other Side

French series Nu (created by Olivier Fox, 10 episodes x 20 minutes; a second series is in the works: “nu” in French means “naked” or “nude” in English, take your pick) posits a near-future where the Transparency Act is in force and everyone is required to go nude as a security measure.

The story follows police officer Franck as he comes to terms with the surprising new world after waking from a coma and eventually begins work on a murder case. The nudity premise allows for some inverted situational comedy in the dialogue and visuals – for example, in the morgue, as the officers get updated on the forensics from the autopsy, the camera pans across the soles of the victim’s shoes (instead of the traditional trope of bare feet) and one of the officers says they still can’t used to it (the victim on the examination is fully clothed, rather than the traditional fully naked).

And so on.

In a remarkable parallel with how Civilians and Common Law lawyers see each other’s systems (or rather, don’t), the camera in Nu is, apart from four or five set pieces, enamoured of tight head-and-shoulder close-ups, long distance shots, objects in front, pre-emptively shifting upwards just before characters begin to stand. Not to mention looking away and/or upwards when framing action or when a character moves into frame.

Totally the un- of Nu.

Likewise, in the legal sphere (and this is probably an unintended outcome of having Napoleon on the world stage for a bit), there is a (partially instinctive) thread in Common Law viewings of Civil Law that anything French is by definition allergenic as to logic and legal usability, and the mind’s camera looks away or de-focuses or both. All the Civil Law tradition in England (such as Admiralty) is conveniently de-scoped from the comparison, and the local procedures are automatically deemed superior. And of course the favour is returned.

It’s interesting how unconscious it is.

Digesting multi-stranded narratives

Two-layered referencing

Robert Graves, in his Greek Myths, used a citation style where each component of the myth was sourced to a list of relevant ancient authors and works. That technique will work for any narrative in general where there are multiple reporters, and will highlight the variations and commonalities of the different strands of traditions.



In Latex/Xelatex, this can be done by using the bibliography package biblatex with the option style=numeric-verb, which numbers the references, and in footnotes, if there are a series of cites, puts each of the items into their own set of square brackets.

To key them in any order but have them display in numerical order in the footnote, the biblatex option sortcites=true is used.

Rather than actual footnotes, putting all the notes at the end of the text is done by using the endnotes package, \usepackage{endnotes}, and setting the footnote to be an endnote with:


Next comes setting the endnotes to normal size


and adjusting their margin

 \rightskip\z@ \leftskip\z@ %\parindent=1.8em


Now a shorthand command will come in handy to save typing in the full footnote and citation commands each time:


We type some text, with the references:

Item 1\fnc{a5,a3,a2}. Item 2\fnc{a1, a2}. Item 3\fnc{a5}. Item 4\fnc{a4}, Item 5\fnc{a4}, Item 6\fnc{a5,a4,a3,a2,a1}.

Print the endnotes with:


And print the bibliography with:


Job done.

Full code:


% the test bibliography:
author={An Author Name},
title={title 1},
titleaddon={[translation of title goes here]},
journaltitle={Example X},
title={title 2},
journaltitle={Example Y},
title={title 3},
journaltitle={Example Z},
title={title 4},
journaltitle={Example cat},
title={title 5},
journaltitle={Example fog},

% biblatex for the bibliography
\usepackage[british]{datetime2} % for date formatting of \today
\usepackage[style=numeric-verb, sortcites=true, citereset=section, ibidtracker=true, indexing=cite, backend=biber, isbn=true, 

% use endnotes instead of footnotes

%reset footnote marker size: not needed now, because endnotes are being used instead

%set the endnotes to normal size, not footnote size:

%original command to position the endnotes with respect to the margin:
% \rightskip\z@ \leftskip\z@ \parindent=1.8em
% \leavevmode{\setbox\z@=\lastbox}\llap{\theenmark.\enskip}%

%don't need paragraph indent when setting the format for the endnotes, but the rest of the command shifts everything to the right by a bit, so that it lines up.
 \rightskip\z@ \leftskip\z@ %\parindent=1.8em

%footnotes are not being used, so setting footnotes to normal size font won't do anything:
\let\footnotesize\normalsize %footnote text

%short-version of the to-be-used-quite-often footnote~cite command pair; the cites command, because there could be multiple sources, and it handles one or more (comma separated):

%the data, meaning the text:
Item 1\fnc{a5,a3,a2}. Item 2\fnc{a1, a2}. Item 3\fnc{a5}. Item 4\fnc{a4}, Item 5\fnc{a4}, Item 6\fnc{a5,a4,a3,a2,a1}.

%print the endnotes:

%print the bibliography:

%typesetting run is: xelatex, biber, xelatex, xelatex.


Comparative Law beneath its Overlays

On of the really annoying things about comparative law is the amount of other stuff that gets in the way.

Language and procedure, understandably enough, but patronising and jingoistic attitudes, credulous reporting, spurious claim-making, propagandists blowing their own horn and self-important windbags blowing their own trumpet, co-opting of the media into personal political skirmishes, fuelling moral panics (for various reasons), and more besides, do not help – and perhaps that is the intention.

Take a recent trawl through the Thesis Sea, of theses touching on a relatively recent international case, and the thesis writers have come across all of these things. The foundational concept is language, and how it is used to present reality and reinforce perceived reality.

Here’s a list:

  • Bc. Květa Suchá, “Concept of National Identity in News Reporting” (2010, Masaryk University, Faculty of Arts, Department of English and American Studies: English Language and Literature)
  • Daniela Oelke, “Visual Document Analysis: Towards a Semantic Analysis of Large Document Collections” (2010, Universitat Konstanz im Fachbereich Informatik und Informationswissenschaft)
  • Shelley Dove, “Doubly deviant, doubly damned?: The Response to Violent Female Offenders” (2011, University of Portsmouth, Institute of Criminal Justice Studies)
  • Andrew J. Mascelli, “Impact of the Italian Language and Culture on the Amanda Knox Trials” (2013, The Pennsylvania State University Schreyer Honors College – Department of Spanish, Italian And Portuguese)
  • Deidre Freyenberger, “Amanda Knox: A Content Analysis of Media Framing in Newspapers Around the World” (2013, East Tennessee State University, Professional Communication)
  • Ulrike Tabbert, “Crime through a corpus: The linguistic construction of offenders, victims and crimes in the German and UK press” (2013, University of Huddersfield)
  • Rosalind Theresa Waterhouse, “Satanic abuse, false memories, weird beliefs and moral panics: Anatomy of a 24-year investigation” (2014, City University London, Department of Journalism)
  • Alexx Bonovich, “Masked Victims: Examining the Violence of Femme Fatales in Contemporary Film Noir Cinema” (2015, DePaul University, Media and Cinema Studies)
  • Louise White, “”Labelled a murderer” – A discursive analysis of Amanda Knox’s construction of innocence” (2015, Loughborough University)
  • Alisa Narbutas, “Knocking Amanda Knox – How Newspapers put Women on Trial” (2016, Faculty of Journalism & Media Communications, Griffith College Dublin)
  • Emily Meredith Bosch, “Alter Egos / Alternative Rhetorics: Belle Knox’s Rhetorical Construction of Pornography and Feminism” (2016, Communication Studies and the Graduate Faculty of the University of Kansas)
  • Ella Fegitz, “Post-feminism in Italy and the legacy of Berlusconism: an analysis of media representations of female subjectivity and sexuality in the age of Berlusconi.” (2017, Goldsmiths College, University of London, Media and Communications Department)
  • William B. Ollayos, “Women On Trial: Translating Femininity Through Journalism” (2017, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Comparative Literature)
  • Bianca Szkuta, “Investigation into the variables affecting DNA transfer in forensic casework” (2017, Deakin University)
  • Danielle Lenth, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Justice: A Comparative Legal Study of the Amanda Knox Case” (2014, University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law)
  • Bc. Irena Selucká, “Tense Choice in Indirect Speech” (2011, Filozofická fakulta Univerzity Palackého, Katedra anglistiky a amerikanistiky)

Other than the DNA one, they’re all about language.

The one about Berlusconi might require a bit of explanation: he has been waging a long-running campaign against the Italian judiciary, and playing in the political space while owning a large chunk of the media.

Besides the US-sourced generic panic about Satan, there was also a moral panic in Italy at the time relating to foreigners and attacks on local women. And a general-purpose but vaguer panic about students and drugs and morals. The media (mostly male) just lapped it up and outraged all over the place while having an excuse for talking about sex in public (the talk, that is). On top of everything else, some ‘journalists’ had ulterior motives and scores to settle…


Waterhouse uses a phrase, “credulous and uncritical”, which to me seems apt in general, for describing what “reporting” is, in the copy-paste era.

Tabbert finds that reporting on crime uses linguistic features to “pre-convict offenders and to invoke a feeling of insecurity and fear in the public”.

Dove finds “public opinion is struggling to maintain pace [with gender equality]. This appears to be illustrated prominently within the responses to female violent offenders as it appears deeply instilled and pervasive stereotypes remain persistent.” And then that overlaps with noir presentation of narratives, which feed back into expectations and reporting.

As Oelke says, “manually evaluating the available sources is often not feasible”. That is the crux of the matter: who do we trust?

Lawyers, by definition, have to read a lot and know how expensive and time-wasting superficial reading is. Constructing reality through language is what they do as a day job. They may have an answer to the question about trust, if they don’t contribute to the problem.



Pascal, thinking, courtesy of GoogleBooks:

“Talk of humility is a matter of pride for the vainglorious, and of humility for the humble. Likewise, Scepticism and doubt are matters of affirmation for the affirmers. Few people speak humbly of Humility, chastely of Chastity, doubtingly of Doubt. We are but liars, duplicitous and contradictory to ourselves.We hide from ourselves, and we mask ourselves from ourselves.”


On a typographical note, note the daisy ornament marking the paragraph,


Bronte, Sterope, Arges

‘Better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick’ – proverb

From Hesiod’s Theogony 139-141:
“Then he made from his great heart, Bronte Sterope and violent-surging Arges, they who would give Zeus his thunder and would make his lightning bolts”

— from the Italian of: Giulio Guidorizzi,
Kosmos – L’universo dei Greci: L’età arcaica (2016)
[EinaudiScuola, 2016], p 280. ISBN 9788828617907
Kosmos: The World of the Greeks I – The Archaic Age
“the Cyclops were well-named, because they had only one round eye in their forehead”

un solo occhio rotondo avevano nella fronte

Volcanoes. Obviously.

The Titanomachy would have been a sight to see (from a long way away).
Zeus sky-high (and new-born fully-formed Athena with her Aegis) and a cloud of winter slowly approaching, like a wolf eating the sun. Not to mention the earthshaking coming from the sea (Poseidon). Memories of Mount Doom.
Thera is the most likely candidate, in the circumstances.



A recent night-time photo of Mt Agung erupting brought this musing on.

And in ancient times, the groaning sounds coming from underground would have fed into other thoughts, too: the place where Zeus imprisoned his enemies for eternity.

An Ornament of One

When is a borderline on the other side?

At this time of year (late spring, early summer), there are some garden cypresses visible along the street in peoples’ front-yards which produce juicy cones of such an attractive flavour to birds of the parrot kind (such as corellas, and sulphur-crested cockatoos) that flocks of them divert especially to have an early-morning breakfast feast.

The trees are dark green and and shaped like a picture-drawing Christmas-tree, and a flock of snowy-white birds perched on the sides of the tree look like ornaments.

I hereby propose a new collective noun: `an ornament of corellas’, or `an ornament of cockatoos’.

Even one perching cockatoo gives that effect.

Which raises the idea: can one bird be a flock?

Certainly there is an implication. Cockatoos and corellas and rainbow lorikeets and so on are gregarious and move about in family groups and larger, chattering and gossiping all the while, so the presence of one necessarily implies the presence of others somewhere nearby (within coo-ee, in fact, since they keep in touch by sound, and, for the larger birds like the cockatoos, that sound carries a long way).

A Flock of One

A membership of one constitutes the category (mathematicians would go one step further with their null set: a membership of none constitutes the category).

One person doing manual work makes it a factory: Griffith v Ferrier 1952 SC(J) 56.

The question then moves to: what is manual work?


Language is vague, by its nature.

“what really is a chair”

— Janny Leung,
“On the edge of reason: Law at the borderline”,
in Marco Wan (ed),
Reading the Legal Case: Cross-Currents between Law and the Humanities, (2012)
[Routledge, 2012], pp 128-141, p 138.
ISBN 9780415673549

Or red, or bilingual, or a machine, or a chicken-coop?

(This last is in reference to “whether a chicken-coop may be considered a vehicle” — Leung, p 128. A hen-house, on iron bogies, was being towed along a road by a tractor: for the purposes of the relevant motor vehicle statute (whose purpose was to help with road maintenance), the hen-house was deemed to be a vehicle.)

“The nature of language also presents its own challenges. A V Crabbe wrote in Understanding Statutes, Cavendish Publishing Ltd, London, 1994, p 8:

… it is … the very nature of language that presents the greatest problem to successful communication. Language is considered

‘perhaps the greatest human invention’,


yet it is a most imperfect instrument for the expression of human thought. It has tremendous potential for vagueness, ambiguity, nonsense, imprecision, inaccuracy … [footnotes omitted]

— Kath Hall and Claire Macken,
Legislation and Statutory Interpretation, 3rd edition, (2012)
[LexisNexis Butterworths, 2012], [3.34] (p 66).
ISBN 9780409330656

In Haygarth v J & F Stone Lighting & Radio Ltd, [1968] AC 157, the question was: what is manual labour, and how is that different to the work that `ordinary brain workers’ do? More specifically, Was a radio and television repairman working in a back room in a television sales shop in Upper Brook Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, in May 1964, when a factory inspector visited, doing manual labour? If yes, then that place is a factory, and occupational health and safety applies, such as the provision of a first-aid box or cupboard.

Here we are only concerned with the words “employed in manual labour.” The word ” employed ” is clear. The words ” employed in ” denote employed to do. The word ” manual ” denotes something done with the hands. (As long ago as in 1884 Bowen L.J. said in Morgan v. London General Omnibus Co. (1884) 13 QBD 832, 834 (CA) that manual labour could only mean ” labour performed by hand.”) In one sense every person is employed in manual labour who is employed to do work with his hands. But nearly everyone who is employed must do some work with his hands. How then is a decision to be made as to whether an employed person is or is not employed in manual labour?

Per Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, at 175

Although the case ‘raises no question of general importance’ (Lord Reid, at 174), in the sense of legal principle, the various courts and judges held different opinions about where the dividing line (never hard and fast) should be drawn about what constitutes manual labour.

Prior cases looked to for guidance dealt with:

  • dispensing pharmaceuticals at a chemists’
  • being a tugboat captain
  •  doing lithography and engraving
  •  modellers moulding clay into ornaments and other things using photographs supplied by the employer
  •  being a grocer’s assistant
  •  making bouquets in a florist’s shop
  •  making decorative hampers from an assortment of bonbons and sweetmeats
  •  being a bus conductor
  •  being a tram driver

Terms like ‘borderline’ and ‘very borderline’ were used.

Where would you draw the line?

Or would it be more of a fuzzy smudge, like an artist’s thumb rubbing of a charcoal mark on the canvas?