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A.Word.A.Day--voir dire

Pronunciation RealAudio

voir dire (vwar-DEER) noun

The preliminary examination of prospective witnesses or jurors to determine their competence. Also, the oath administered for this purpose.

[From Anglo-French, from Old French voir (true) + dire (to speak).]

"After hearing the testimony during a voir dire, Justice Monique Metivier allowed it to become part of the evidence."
Lisa Lisle; Court OKs Cops' Testimony; The Ottawa Sun (Canada); Dec 6, 2001.

"Even jury duty in Los Angeles is glamorous. During jury selection at the shoplifting trial of actress Winona Ryder, at least half a dozen people connected to the film industry went through voir dire. At the end of the process, Peter Guber, former chairman of Sony Pictures, ended up being impaneled. Guber revealed that while he was head of the studio, his company made a film with Ryder, but after promising he could be objective, he was selected to serve."
Michele Orecklin; A Jury of Her Peers; Time (New York); Nov 4, 2002.

My grandfather was a lawyer. When he and my grandmother had a little tiff, I remember, she would sometimes say, "Go tell your lies in the court." They would soon make up, but a statement like that is perhaps an occupational hazard to any married lawyer.

But lawyers' reputation for fine analysis of words is well-deserved. Outcome of a case often depends on the precise meaning of a single word. No wonder lawyers are deeply interested in words. Almost all the staff members of some law offices are AWAD subscribers. Many lawyers are well-known novelists and authors of books on language usage. When we think of lawyers, dense legalese comes to mind but they are not without humor. Here is one.

This week we look at terms from the world of law.



Nature teaches more than she preaches. There are no sermons in stones. It is easier to get a spark out of a stone than a moral. -John Burroughs, naturalist and writer (1837-1921)

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