Courts martial / Militärgerichte

Es geht um das Plural von court-martial (Militärgericht), normalerweise courts-martial, aber man sieht auch court-martials. The Discouraging Word ist nicht ganz glücklich, und die New York Times brachte am Sonntage beide Versionen.

The Discouraging Word, reading about Iraq courts-martial and also court-martials in the papers, wonders whether the plural has to be the former. The entry (May 18th) cites the standard dictionaries.

I will cite Garner’s Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage.

It says that court-martial is hyphenated both as noun and as verb. ‘The OED lists the verb as colloquial, an observation now antiquated.’

bq. In order texts, the term is sometimes rendered martial court – e.g.: “[A] martial court must needs in the present case confine its attention to the blow’s consequence ….” Hermann Melville, Billy Budd.

There is also an entry on what are called post-positive adjectives:

accounts payable
accounts receivable
act malum in se
annuity certain
appearance corporal
attorney general
body corporate
body politic
brief amicus curiae
chattels personal
chattels real
condition precedent
condition subsequent
corporation de facto
corporation de jure
court martial [where’s the hyphen gone?]
date certain
decree absolute
easement appurtenant
fee simple
fee simple defeasible
fee simple determinable
fee tail
gap certain
heir apparent
law merchant
letters patent
letters rogatory (U.S.)
letters testamentary
notary public
offense mala prohibita
parties defendant
parties litigant
postmaster general
queen regent (or regnant)
secretary general
sum certain
sum total
twelve men good and true

I also thought of Governor General, who represents the Queen as head of state in former commonwealth countries that do not want to have their own president. Or something like that.

6 thoughts on “Courts martial / Militärgerichte

  1. I can only speak from my own experience of ten years military service and no legal experience. In the British Army, at least, it was always referred to as courts martial, without the hyphen. Luckily, I was never the subject of one, although threatened with it now and again :-)

  2. I don’t think I could give up that plural on the noun.

    Funnily enough, I can’t remember the term being used when Fürth had what I think was the biggest American military court outside the USA in Fürth. I watched a couple of wonderful trials there, including a murder trial. It would have been nice to preserve that courtroom, but I think the whole block has been converted into rather nice little houses. They also had a basement theatre called Stage 13, in Building 13 I think, where I don’t think the audience was more than 40 or 50 and they did excellent musicals like ‘Anything Goes’ and ‘Evita’. But I digress

  3. How about “sisters in law”? Personally I’d have no qualms saying or writing “court martials”, especially in the Engleesh.

  4. Annuity, date & sum certain are not as common in Eng. law as term certain and uncertain for a fixed- or unfixed-term partnership agreement or employment etc tc.

    Courts-martial (hyphenated in Osborn’s Law Dict.) also seem to have their own terminology i.e. panel instead of jury and further differences between AE – Trial Attorney and BE – Prosecuting Officer.

    But not all offences commited by the military end up in such a court and some will end up in the ordinary domestic courts of law, as intimated might happen in Iraq.

    I remember translating German civil & criminal court cases 20 years ago against a handful of naughty North Rhine/Westphalian-stationed British servicemen involved in pub brawls, domestic violence and motor accidents with German locals seeking fitting redress and compensation.

  5. There is – as usual – an interesting discussion over at Transblawg. This time it’s about creaky-sounding (legal) phrases in which the noun precedes the adjective, some of which may be inverted: court martial/martial court, secretary general/general sec…

  6. BTW, I really should have said I prefer it without the hyphen.
    @des: Quirk has more, including grant-in-aid, commander-in-chief, man-of-war, coat-of-mail, and passer-by. It says that there are three where the plural can be either beginning or end (as Scribe says): attorney general, court martial, and mother-in-law – but it says mother-in-laws is colloquial!
    Then there are gentlemen farmers – but man-eaters and woman-haters (it omits wife-beaters).
    Today I had to think twice about the plural of still life.
    Now let’s look at the wonderful Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English (hope Mark Liberman isn’t reading this): None of these words are in the lexical index. It has postposed adjectives, but I can’t find anything – not under compound nouns, or plurals – they have a lot on lexical bundles. Hmm, I wonder if the Cambridge Grammar mentions it …
    @AMM: I think the court in Fürth talked about members of the court instead of jurors. They were all officers, seven I think, and if one was ill there were only six, and so on. The arrangement was that the German courts had first choice but by convention left it to the Americans, unless there was a possibility of the death penalty being imposed, in which case the German courts took it.

    I haven’t heard of some of Garner’s list. ‘Gap certain’ is deeply mystifying.

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