When I started this blog, I was thinking of calling it No Sanity Clause. It had the ideal link between law and Mar(ks)x. But then I realized that not many Germans would understand that. Perhaps it’s just as well, since this name has since been taken elsewhere. In any case, there is legislation in place in Germany that blogs have to be called something like law blog or jura blog.
Now Language Log has had an entry on No Sanity Clause. For those who don’t know, it’s the punchline of a scene between Groucho and Chico in A Night at the Opera where they try to agree on a contract. Here’s part of the text:
bq. Driftwood … Now pay particular attention to this first clause because it’s most important. It says the, uh, “The party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the party of the first part.” How do you like that? That’s pretty neat, eh?
Fiorello: No, it’s no good.
Driftwood: What’s the matter with it?
Fiorello: I don’t know. Let’s hear it again.
Driftwood: It says the, uh, “The party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the party of the first part.”
Fiorello: (pausing) That sounds a little better this time.
Driftwood: Well, it grows on ya. Would you like to hear it once more?
Fiorello: Uh, just the first part.
Driftwood: What do you mean? The party of the first part?
Fiorello: No, the first part of the party of the first part.
Driftwood: All right. It says the, uh, “The first part of the party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the first part of the party of the first part shall be known in this contract” – look, why should we quarrel about a thing like this? We’ll take it right out, eh?
Fiorello: Yeah, it’s a too long, anyhow. (They both tear off the tops of their contracts.) Now, what do we got left?
Driftwood: Well, I got about a foot and a half. Now, it says, uh, “The party of the second part shall be known in this contract as the party of the second part.”
Fiorello: Well, I don’t know about that…
Driftwood: Now what’s the matter?
Fiorello: I no like-a the second party, either.
And the ending with the pun:
bq. Fiorello: Hey, wait, wait. What does this say here? This thing here.
Driftwood: Oh, that? Oh, that’s the usual clause. That’s in every contract. That just says uh, it says uh, “If any of the parties participating in this contract is shown not to be in their right mind, the entire agreement is automatically nullified.”
Fiorello: Well, I don’t know…
Driftwood: It’s all right, that’s, that’s in every contract. That’s, that’s what they call a ‘sanity clause’.
Fiorello: Ha ha ha ha ha! You can’t fool me! There ain’t no Sanity Clause!
At Language Log, Benjamin Zimmer uses it as a hook to talk about whether there is a ‘liberty clause’.