U.S. legal abbreviation SS./U.S.-Abkürzung SS.

On the pt Yahoo translators group (German), once again the question has been asked: ‘What does SS mean?’ I want to summarize the problem here so I have a summary for next time.

Bedeutung der U.S.-amerikanischen Abkürzung SS in Rechtstexten – oft wird danach gefragt, ganz sicher weiß es niemand. Ich will das Problem hier schildern, damit ich das nächste Mal auf diesen Eintrag verweisen kann.

1. My latest belief is what Bryan Garner says in Dictionary of Modern
Legal Usage: that it was entered once in error and then copied
again and again over the centuries. Garner, in his , says it comes from a flourish in the Year Books (unofficial law reports from 1282 to 1537). Example from Garner:

District of Columbia, ss.:
John Rand, being duly sworn, deposes and says that he has read the foregoing bill by him subscribed and knows the contents…

(John Rand, nachdem er beeidigt wurde, gibt eidlich zu Protokoll, dass er das vorhergehende Schriftstück, das von ihm unterschrieben ist, gelesen hat und dessen Inhalt kennt…)

1. Neuerdings glaube ich Garner, in A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage. Er sagt, Anwälte in den USA haben sich lange gefragt, was es bedeutet. Es erscheint oft auf der ersten Seite einer eidlichen Erklärung (affidavit). Eigentlich ist es ein Schnörkel, ähnlich dem Absatzzeichen ¶. Ein Gerichtsberichterstatter hat es in einem Sammelband benutzt und andere habe es kopiert.

Garner cites Lord Hardwicke: ‘The word ss., I verily believe, was not originally meant to the county [sic], but only a denotation of each section of paragraph in the record. ‘ An early formbook writer incorporated it into his forms, and ever since it has been mindlessly perpetuated by one generation after another.

Andere mögliche Bedeutungen/other possible meanings:
2. supra scriptum (vorhergehend – steht neben der Unterschrift) / written above – this stands beside the signature.
3. scilicet: “nämlich” (normalerweise als scil. oder sc. abgekürzt – aber viele Abkürzungen, die man als Übersetzer antrifft, sind “falsch” / ‘namely, to wit’, usually abbreviated as scil. or sc..
4. “signum sigilli” (Zeichen des Siegels)/ sign of the seal
[Ich kenne locus sigilli, Ort des Siegels, und das scheint ausreichend / Locus sigilli, place of the seal, definitely exists).
5. “signed and sealed” (passt aber nicht im Kopf des Schriftsatzes)/ Seals are not that common in the USA, and the tradition British equivalent was ‘signed, sealed and delivered’, although the seal is now no longer required.

Someone referred to this thread.

Wenn 1 oder 3 stimmt, dann kann das SS. in der deutschen Übersetzung weggelassen werden.

If answer 1 or 3 is correct (or seems to work!), the SS. can be left out in the German translation.

Bei ProZ wurde das Problem auf Russisch diskutiert, was mir nicht weiterhilft.

ProZ has a discussion of it in Russian, but I can’t understand Vladimir’s winning reply.

LATER NOTE: I am copying here the comment made by Mark on language hat’s site, where a discussion has developed:

According to my father, a law professor, “It’s the preamble to an affidavit, which is a sworn statement made under penalties of perjury before a notary or an officer of the court of that state. The party signing the document has Stated and Sworn in said county whatever is written in the document.”

I don’t think there’s any dispute as to what an affidavit is (I think ‘sworn’ and ‘under penalty of perjury’ mean the same thing). But ‘stated and sworn in X county’ does make sense. It depends on the context. I don’t think it’s always affidavits it’s on.

7 thoughts on “U.S. legal abbreviation SS./U.S.-Abkürzung SS.

  1. Vladimir Dubisskiy says “ss=subsection (podrazdel), sections (razdely).” Lyudmyla Thompson (who apparently asked the question) accepted his answer, but Big Val continued to maintain that if it meant ‘subsection’ it would have a number next to it (which makes sense to me) and goes on to quote the Garner article, adding that he’s asked several American lawyers and been told ss “most probably means sworn statement, though nobody knows for sure”.

  2. Thanks very much! Well, that wasn’t very helpful. I have come to the conclusion that in England we write s. for section, but subs. is the better abbreviation for subsection(s); ss. means sections. And the abbreviation is not used so much in the USA, where these documents originate.

    I can manage the Russian alphabet – I did Russian for a few years in the late sixties – but I haven’t got my Windows set to do Cyrillic.

  3. I know legal terminology tends to the arcane, but this is ridiculous. Apparently in the heading of affidavits there is a line that simply says “ss” between the names of state and county, thus:STATE OF ARIZONA ) )ss. COUNTY OF…

  4. The District of Colubia usage in the example confuses things a bit, but in cases like “State of Maryland ss. County of Price George’s” the “subsection” reading seems to be saying that the county is a subsection or subdivision of the state.

  5. Maybe. I didn’t think of that. I think that is the most common use, before ‘county’. Someone on language hat’s site said it means something like ‘subscribed and sworn in X county’, but the problem with this is that these are not always documents anyone swore to.

  6. I meant not documents anyone swore, not swore *to*

    I swear to God
    She swears on the Bible
    They swear by their dentist

    (I also say ‘a sworn translator’ rather than ‘a sworn in translator’)

  7. You’re correct that this is not limited to affidavits; I tend not to deal with such documents, but the language seems to be present in most documents that are notarized.

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