Amerikaner/black and white cookies

I always thought Amerikaner were a German thing and wondered where they got their name from, but it turns out they are a New York cookie (via smitten kitchen).



(Image by Ben Orwoll, public domain)

Amerikaner certainly used to be made with a form of ammonium carbonate called Hirschhornsalz (Salt of Hartshorn/baker’s ammonia) in German. This is widely sold in Germany, especially at this time of year. I saw it being used by London Eats, who posts Christmas cookies from abroad at this time of year:  Fedtebrød.

If you don’t want to make do with baking powder or bicarbonate of soda, the German Deli sells Hirschhornsalz, and also potash and Lebkuchen spice.

LAWnLinguistics blog on corpus linguistics

I have already given a link to Neil Goldfarb’s weblog LAWnLinguistics – Not about the linguistics of lawns, but that was only in passing. My post then was about Goldfarb’s use of corpus linguistics in an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The latest post, dated today, is Words, Meanings, Corpora: A Lawyer’s Introduction to Meaning in the Framework of Corpus Linguistics. He writes:

On Friday I will be presenting a paper at a conference at Brigham Young University Law School on law and corpus linguistics. Here is the description from the conference website:
‘Building on the 2016 inaugural Law and Corpus Linguistics Conference, the 2017 BYU Law Review Symposium, “Law & Corpus Linguistics” brings together legal scholars from across various substantive areas of scholarship, prominent corpus linguistics scholars, and judges who have employed corpus linguistics analysis in their decisions.’

That’s quite a coincidence because on the same date there is a talk at IALS A Practical Workshop on using Corpus Linguistics for Law by Dr Gianluca Pontrandolfo.

Goldfarb wants to show lawyers how to judge the meaning of words, and Pontrandolfo’s workshop is said to be of interest not only to legal translators but to those analysing legal language for other purposes.

Anyway, the weblog has a great number of interesting links. It was pretty new when I first linked to it.

With thanks to Stan Carey on Twitter.

The Bluebook and copyright

In ‘Bluebook’ Critics Incite Copyright Clash , The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports that some ‘legal activists’ are planning to post online what they call a simpler, free alternative. This may or may not be called Baby Blue.

The activists (Carl Malamud and Christopher Jon Sprigman) have received a letter from the Harvard Law Review’s lawyers claiming copyright infringement if they use a title with ‘blue’ in it. But the copyright objections will apparently extend to the work itself.

The book is expected to be published in early 2016 in an editable form.

Messrs. Malamud and Sprigman’s effort could resonate with some in the legal community. The Bluebook has its critics, including Judge Richard Posner, who wrote an entire law journal essay** arguing that the 511-page manual exemplifies “hypertrophy,” a word “used mainly to denote a class of diseases in which an organ grows to an abnormal size.”

** Richard A. Posner, The Bluebook Blues (reviewing Harvard Law Review Association, The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (19th ed., 2010)),” 120 Yale Law Journal 852 (2011). (PDF)

A quote from the Posner essay:

Many years ago I wrote a review of The Bluebook, then in its sixteenth edition. My review was naively entitled “Goodbye to the Bluebook.” The Bluebook was then a grotesque 255 pages long. It is now in its nineteenth
edition-which is 511 pages long.
I made a number of specific criticisms of The Bluebook in that piece, and I will not repeat them. I don’t believe that any of them have been heeded, but I am not certain, because, needless to say, I have not read the nineteenth edition. I have dipped into it, much as one might dip one’s toes in a pail of freezing water. I am put in mind of Mr. Kurtz’s dying words in Heart of Darkness – “The horror! The horror!” -and am tempted to end there.

Sharon Byrd

I was sorry to hear that Sharon Byrd died last year – in March 2014 in fact. She was only a couple of weeks younger than me. I completely missed it but I hadn’t been in touch for years. I copy below her bio on the Beck Verlag website. (By the way, you can see forthcoming publications there and I see that new editions of Dietl Lorenz in both DE>EN and EN>DE are announced for 2016).

When I was teaching various classes on English law, legal English and translation at the Instit für Fremdsprachen und Auslandskunde in Erlangen, Sharon was teaching legal English and US law at the university there, and she let my students come to her classes. I sat in once and watched her technique of getting the law students to argue about whether it was acceptable to throw out evidence because it had been gathered in an unreliable way. Although she was particularly interested in criminal law – she taught everything – her greatest interest was Kant. I was impressed and envious of her knowledge of philosophy, and quite incapable of understanding what she and her husband wrote on Kant and criminal law. Her first degree was in philosophy.

Sharon also taught at Augsburg and later for some years at Jena, where she helped her students to great success in moot court competitions.

There’s an obituary (PDF) by Heather M. Roff in the Newsletter of the North American Kant Society.

Prof. Dr. B. Sharon Byrd


• Angloamerican Jurisprudenc
• Angloamerican law
• Rechtsenglisch (USA)

Weitere Tätigkeiten

1996 Hon.-Prof. Univ. Erlangen


Studium Rechtswissenschaft, Philosophie

Beruflicher Werdegang

• 1969 B. A. Smith College-Department of Philosophy Northhampton Massachusetts/USA
• 1972 J. D. Univ. of California Los Angeles
• 1987 LL. M., 1991 J. S. D. Columbia Univ. New York
• Prof. Univ. Jena
• Leiterin Law & Language Center Univ. Jena


• Einführung in die anglo-amerikanische Rechtssprache 1997, 2. A. 2001
• Anglo-Amerikanisches Vertrags- und Deliktsrecht 1998
• Romain Alfred/Bader Hans Anton/Byrd Sharon B. Wörterbuch der Rechts- und Wirtschaftssprache Teil 1 Englisch-Deutsch, 5. A. 2000
• Romain Alfred/Byrd Sharon B./Thielecke Carola Wörterbuch der Rechts- und Wirtschaftssprache Teil 2 Deutsch-Englisch, 4. A. 2002

The German media on the US legal system

Andrew Hammel has a suspicion that the German media are keen to find fault with what they believe to be the US justice system, while overlooking comparable shortcomings of the German justice system. Goodness gracious – is he allowed to publish that kind of thing?

Bleg: German News Coverage of Failures of German Justice

Andrew is looking for evidence in the German-language press:

So what I am looking for is articles in the German-language press by Germans which deal with potential justice problems in courts in German-speaking countries including:

(1) wrongful convictions;

(2) racial, ethnic, or religious disparities in conviction rates or sentencing;

(3) allegations of racial or ethnic or religious bias among German prosecutors and professional or lay judges;

(4) interviews with prisoners currently serving prison sentences in Germany who claim that they are completely innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted; and/or

(5) detailed examinations of systemic problems in German criminal justice or prisons, things such as underfunding, outdated regulations, disproportionate penalties, or the use of unreliable evidence.

And why behold you the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye?

Students’ errors (ancient): British and US background studies

Students’ replies in a short oral test on British and US background studies in the 1980s and 1990s. I only tested the UK part. The students were at a Berufsfachschule, a kind of secretarial college, and the test was to show how they expressed themselves in English as well as whether they knew their stuff. I think that over the years, as the teaching got better, the answers got better too:

highest mountain in UK Lord Snowdon
There is a lot of Arabic farming in Kent (= arable farming)
Oxford and Cambridge were found in the Middle Ages.
Dartmoor Tunnei
Citrus fruits in the Scilly Isles
The states under the Ohio River
The Fairy Isles
In Birmingham the main industry is roofing.
In Birmingham the main industry is distilling and biscuit making.
Lake Loman, Loch Almond
What flows through the Great Glen? – The Glen River.
Glen Penn (= the Great Glen)
Gas was founded in East Anglia.
The new universities were found in the 1960s.
The Grumpians (= the Grampians)
The Crumbians (= the Cambrians)
Give an example of what you mean by heavy engineering. – Textiles.
Chicago – they make cans, meat.
The streamsters’ union.
The truckster union
The tramsters’ union (= teamsters)
Old pensioners live there (Florida).
Why is the climate good there? -1 think so.
The Forth Railroad Bridge.
The Caledonian Valley.
The Manchester ferry.
Liverpool is rainy because of the monsoon.
On St Patrick’s Day you wear a clover.
The Norfolk Broads – where most Englishmen go on vacation.
There are pea pots in the Norfolk Broads.
They put rubbish there and got more land.
There are almost no rivers in Britain.
Tweed is a special kind of leather.
Hills in the UK – in the south we have the Pennines.
The maturity vote in Britain (= majority system)
The four saints founded the Union Jack.
What were they digging for in Dover when the Channel tunnel was begun in the 19th c? Steel./ – To find water.
Klondiking in Ullapool – (= cf. the Gold Rush) – people rushing for herrings.
Only 5% of the fishes were eaten in the UK.
The Dust Bowl is a strong wind in Oklahoma.
The St. Lawrence Canal.
I’m thinking of one of the natural wonders of the world (i.e. the Grand Canyon) – Salt? ’One of the great wonders of the world is what I’m thinking of.’- ’I see!’
The North-South division – it has something to do with black and white – The milk and dairy belt?
The capital of Indiana? – India.
The Chilly Isles
What is Hadrian’s Wall? – Oh God, I’m lucky to know the name.
The Flens (= the Fens)
What kind of cat has 9 tails? -1 can’t imagine.
What is a Manx cat? – The symbol of the island. – What kind of a cat is it? – It’s a living animal, it’s a cat with 9 tails.
Cats have 9 tails on the Isle of Man.
Skin Tain; Skin Pain (Sinn Fein) – the extremist Unionist party.
The patron saint of Wales? – The Early of Snowdon.
Indians live on a reservoir.
Dead Valley (= Death Valley)
Constitutional conventions – the Prime Minister is there but he hasn’t to be there.
Colloquial school (= comprehensive school).
What is a big mountain that caused trouble lately? (i.e. Mount St. Helen’s) – Mount Vernon? Mount Rushmore?
They wanted to build a channel through the US (= Union Pacific Railway).
What is a JP? – It sounds familiar, but I’m not quite sure what it is.
A JP doesn’t need a loyal (= legal) training.
A JP can deal with dismeanors (= misdemeanors)
Scottish Gaelic is spoken by about 300 peoples.
The Shilly Isles.
What are you doing next year? (Question after a good test) – I’m working in a bureau as a foreign secretary.
The crofters mainly process peat.
The crofters rent their soil.
The Sellafield re-plant (= reprocessing plant).
If the Queen dies, a new Queen will be elected.
There is never a moment without a monarch.
When the Queen dies, her ancestor becomes a Queen or King. – Which ancestor? – Her son.
What other things are said about the Queen? – They say she always takes water for her tea (i.e. on trips abroad)
What does she wear at the opening of Parliament? – How should I know – I’ve never seen her.
The Queen can abolish the Prime Minister.
What is the meaning of the expression ’The Queen never dies’? -1 didn’t think you were going to ask that. It means she’s always alive in the memory of the people.
When she dies, her son will immediately become Queen.
’The Queen never dies’? – She will be remembered. She is registered everywhere.
’The Queen does no wrong’ means she’s always right in the eyes of the people.
She’s always right – she gets her powers from God.
The Queen can do no wrong – It’s a law, she’s always right
The Queen can’t have a trial except for things which are very severe.
The Queen can’t be persecuted – prosecuted or put in prison.
’The Queen is the fountain of justice’ – She can say, ’No, you must not die’.
The Queen always lets someone of her family become Queen after her.
The Governor of General is the title of the Queen.
The Governor General of Australia vertrets the Queen.
The House of Lords
Who is in charge at the House of Lords? -I don’t know his name. – What does he sit on? – A red sofa, oh dear, I can’t remember what it’s called. -I see. The nameless man on the nameless sofa.
The woolsack is stuffed with cotton from all Commonwealth Countries.
He becomes a peer by hereditary and after his death passes his title on.
Life peers give their seat to their relatives.
The Lord peers.
Harry detory peers
The Lords have their titles because of heir.
Does Screaming Lord Sutch always lose his deposit? – No, he can’t, because he’s a peer, and peers aren’t elected.
In English schools, pupils who misbehave are sometimes canned.
The SDP was founded by three ancient (= former) Labour MPs.
A sandwich course is a course which pupils attend with a sandwich because the course lasts the whole day.
Quakers are very ordinary.
Jersey must be in East Anglia. I found it in my notes but I didn’t know where it belonged.
The Norfolk Broads are handmade lakes (= manmade).
The Irish potato famine: a lot of them starved and the rest of them emigrated.
The highest mountain in the UK? – Big Ben.
How are Manchester and Liverpool joined? – By a bridge.
They have a lot of peat near Stoke-on-Trent – reason for growth of pottery industry.
What author do you think of in connection with the Mississippi? – It’s the father of waters – it’s the biggest river in the USA.
Where would you find tobacco? -I think in the grazing and irrigation area.
Why would you go to Dover? – To see the white cliffs.
GB – the holy island (= whole island).
The Pennines – the backgrate of England (= backbone)
What’s the difference between dairy and beef? – Dairy is cows and beef is oxes. Stratford-on-Trend
The elf-plus (= eleven-plus)
How can you tell if someone comes from the north or the south of the USA? -I can notice it because of their accent. This is a very strange accent.
Where do the children of the rich go to school in the UK? – They go to university.
Most people live in the south of Scotland because the Highlands are not easily to be civilized.
What is Philadelphia famous for? – I don’t know – Philadelphia Cheese?
The oral application of the language is no problem.
Then there is, of course, the well-known Labour politician Mr Food.
The English people exchange friendliness verbally.
Since the use of condoms is an effective method to protect oneself from contraction…
Prince Charles, the Apparent Heir, must at any rate remain the sophisticated dignified person he was brought up to be.
A cash dispenser is a machine which is installed on a bank building.
What is the Square Mile? – East end: dogs; where the poor people live. BFS 2 Sj.
Harrods is situated in Knight’s Brides. BFS 2 Sj.
If you look at the House of Commons, what is different in appearance from the Bundestag? – They have false hair.
Where is there a parliament on this map? – Westminster. – What is the name of the country whose parliament that is? – England. – Well, where is the parliament of Scotland, then? – Dublin.
Battle of the Boyne was the defeat of the Catholic James II by the Protestant William the Orangeman and Mary Stuart.
The squalor in the slums – results of drug abuse, violence, infant pregnancy and other things…
The Isle of Wright
Hong Kong has 60,000 inhabitants
They can own their proprieties in Hong Kong.
A shipping way for the ship or ships (the St. Lawrence Seaway)
The Street (= Straits) of Dover
A law is guilty (= gültig, i.e. valid) orkads (= orchards)
Jersey and Gransey
Public schools are more noble than comprehensives
TVA – the Tennessee Water Association
Where is NASA? – On the Bahamas
Don Quayle
The so-called O levels
Tuscon (= Tucson)
The Normans had red hair (= Vikings)
MPs are appointed by the Prime Minister The Scots were chased from the Romans New York is in Maryland
I could imagine everyone wants to own the Rio Grande, because there are some mineral sources there.
The New York Moors (= the North York Moors)
Which Chinese were not permitted to come? – The Japanese?
What hills are south of London? – The Broads?
The Brofolk Nords (= Norfolk Broads)
The Romans built a Hadrian Wall.
The political name – the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland It’s a constit, constit…monarchy but not an absolute monarchy Who is the present monarch? – Elizabeth I.
What do you know about the Colorado River? – It forms the Rio Grande.
You have the Grampians twice. – Yes, there and there. One’s with a ‘u’ and one’s with an ’a’. (= the Grampians and the Cumbrians)
Why do so many people live in the south of England? – Because of the agriculture there? Sin Fein
What exams do you have to pass to get into a comprehensive? – The 11 +
Grazing is that what cattle does.
The Channel Isles are tax-free (should be: they have no VAT).
Hadrian, which was a Roman – uh – head.
The parliamentary season.
(Becky) What’s the name of this state? -I don’t know. – (Becky) Good.
What kind of vegetables do they grow? – Crops.
OASD-one (= OASDI)
What was the legal status of the immigrants to Britain? – They were welcome.
(Hong Kong) In 1997 they go back to Asia.
In Northern Ireland there are the Catholics and the Conservatives; Catholics are discriminated against.

Are blogs any use to law firms (translators)?

Are blogs any use to law firms? – article by Joe Reevy in the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers at Infolaw. The newsletter is accessible free of charge online nowadays. The general point made is that law firms often put a lot of money into blogging – a post is said to cost GBP 130 – and yet get no comments or feedback. Blogging is referred to as ‘starting an online conversation’. (I must say there is little conversation here either, and I don’t do much to encourage it). It is argued that lawyers should concentrate on one location, one industry or one line of work.

This is presuming the whole purpose of a blog on a law firm’s website is to generate business. Which it probably is.

As for this translation blog, it isn’t meant to generate business. Although I suppose I have got a lot of work through colleagues’ recommendations, so discussing legal translation problems here may prove beneficial. I certainly don’t mention the blog to clients and am somewhat embarrassed if I find out they read it. I have a separate work website, which alas is neglected in that it still records me as being in Germany. I am just getting round to that.

But in recent years a lot of translators’ weblogs have appeared which look much more like advertising efforts. I wonder if they work? Probably just in the same networking way as this blog probably does.

Don’t forget Delia Venables’ Legal Resources in UK and Ireland. My blogroll and links will return, but meanwhile, here is a site to find a lot of information, including UK lawyers’ blogs. Under ‘Information for Lawyers’ you can find, among other things, links to legal journals.

Note in particular Delia’s article in the newsletter on US legal resources (example: use Google Scholar to find case law).

John Flood: What Do Lawyers Do?

John Flood has published a revised version of his book on a Chicago law firm, called Tischmann and Weinstock for the purposes of the book: What Do Lawyers Do? An ethnography of a corporate law firm. You can get the Kindle version, and the paper versions are due shortly.

John Flood has a website and a weblog called John Flood’s Random Academic Thoughts, where there is a post with more information on the book.

I have often wondered what lawyers do myself – the book is about business lawyers rather than litigators, whose role is easier to understand. Just as people who come straight from translation studies can’t usually translate, new lawyers can’t usually act as lawyers, so I never found it out, although the firm in the book sounds very similar to the Jewish law firm where I did my articles in London, down to the arrangement of the offices. The text is rather dry on the surface, a summary of analysis, but amusing between the lines.

The main activity of lawyers is talking on the telephone with persons other than Tischmann lawyers (31.1%). If we add talking with other Tischmann lawyers by telephone the percentage rises to 23.5 percent. The second largest activity is talking face to face with other Tischmann lawyers (12%). Talking with Tischmann lawyers and others takes up 18.1 percent of lawyers’ billable time. If we sum time spent at meetings outside the office (2.6%), office meetings (0.7%), telephoning and talking face to face, we find lawyers spend 53.9 percent of their chargeable time talking. Writing, however, takes up only 20.8 percent (16.3% – drafting; 4.5% – revising). … Research is an activity mainly carried out by associates.

All the office staff are considered.

All the support staff had to log in and out during the day. If they were late, their salaries were docked. Because they perceived their salaries already low, many secretaries left after having their salaries reduced. Much of the office gossip turned on how much of a “bastard” the office manager was, and who was about to suffer his wrath next. Some of the secretaries were aggrieved at how they were treated by the office manager. They felt he conveniently forgot the many occasions when they came in during weekends to help their attorneys, when he decided to dock their pay for some infraction.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest. I think I first read John Flood on barristers’ clerks, a mysterious species – here’s a blog post on them.

The Lost German Slave Girl/Eine Deutsche als Sklavin in Louisiana?

Here is yet another gratuitous book report.

The Lost German Slave Girl. The Extraordinary True Story of Sally Miller and Her Fight for Freedom in Old New Orleans, by John Bailey, Atlantic Monthly Press 2003

This book was a present from my friend and fellow-translator Karen in Denver (thanks, Karen!). I read it quite a few weeks ago, so my report is rather vague now.

John Bailey is an Australian lawyer who has now turned to writing, and he discovered this story when he was researching the details of law relating to slavery in Louisiana. Sally Miller was the ‘lost German slave girl’, who won a case freeing her from slavery because a person who was Caucasian could not be a slave. It’s a fascinating story and it throws some light on the situation of slaves who could not be freed from slavery. There’s also a fair amount about the circumstances in which the Müller family from the Alsace emigrated to the USA, following years of pillaging by French troops, bad harvests and ice in summer (apparently resulting from volcanic eruptions in the West Indies, the Philippines and Indonesia from 1813-1816 – so tonight I will be watching the arte documentary on ‘The year without a summer’).

From an interview with John Bailey:

My plans unraveled, when one day, in the quiet corner of a law library on a university campus in Louisiana, as I struggled to bring some semblance of order to my unruly and ever expanding manuscript, I opened a volume of the Louisiana law reports for 1845. There I met Sally Miller, the Lost German Slave Girl. I was immediately enthralled by her story. By the end of the day, I had shoved my notes on lawyers, judges and politicians into my bag, and opening a fresh page in my diary, had began to jot down ideas for an entirely different project – this one, on the saga of Sally Miller’s bid for freedom.

One feature of the book is that while it cloaks the story in mystery – the witnesses in the trial are obviously long dead – at the same time it often knows exactly what the weather was like or what the main characters were thinking. This is part of the genre ‘bringing history to life’, I think. For a long time I was convinced that I was never going to know anything more about the truth or falsity of the story, but in fact more information was revealed at the end, which made the end of the book more satisfying than I had expected.

A bit of research on the Internet revealed that the story has been told before. Curiously, there is a 2007 American book on the subject, which looks similar to Bailey’s: The two lives of Sally Miller: a Case of Mistaken Racial Identity in Antebellum New Orleans, by Carol Wilson. You can read quite a bit of this on Google Books.