By ANNE DONNELL
Here’s something I don’t think you’ve handled [Re: “Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day” discussing rules for using Jr., Sr., III with male names]. How about It?-Someone Near & Dear
Oxford University Press (“The World’s Largest University Press: Excellence, Tradition, Innovation”) sends out e-mail promotions featuring Bryan Garner’s work. Garner is a lawyer and lexicographer. [Lexicology is a branch of linguistics (linguistics means “of or relating to language”) concerned with the significance and application of words; thank you, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. Lexicographer means an author or editor of a dictionary. If you wrote a collection of naughty words and your ideas of their definitions when you were in fifth grade you were a lexicographer, albeit and mercifully on a tiny scale.] Garner is author of several books and president of LawProse, Inc., a Dallas-based company “that provides continuing-legal-education seminars to lawyers throughout the United States.” (That last bit from the jacket of the Garner book I own, A Dictionary of Modern American Usage.)
LawProse, Inc.? A fountain of therefore, heretofore, whereupon, aforementioned? But NOT irregardless.
Garner’s dictionary’s not the only book lying around over here; we happen to have a few books of lawyer jokes, also, and even a not-surprising-it’s-small volume entitled Lawyer’s Wit and Wisdom. Perhaps a joke or two is in order. Like order in the court?
LAWYER JOKES, ETC. • The judge said to the defendant, “Before I pass sentence, have you anything to offer the court? “Your honor,” replied the defendant, “I would if I could, but the lawyer took my last dime.” • The district attorney said to the alleged arsonist, “Where were you between six and eight?” The accused thought for a moment, scratched his head and replied, “In first grade.” • A divorce lawyer always maintained that the surest sign a man is in love is when he comes in to divorce his wife. • Posted in the laboratory of a big cosmetics firm: “Following the recent successful suit brought by an animal-rights group, we will immediately cease using rats to test our products, and will begin testing products on lawyers. Further reasons: A. There is no shortage of lawyers. B. Lab technicians won’t get too attached to lawyers. C. There are things you simply can’t get a rat to do.” • If law school is so hard to get through, how come there are so many lawyers? • The trial was about to start; the jury had been picked. Mrs. S., one of the jurors, raised her hand and the judge motioned her to speak. “I’m afraid I can’t serve as a juror, Your Honor. One look at that man over there convinces me he’s guilty.” The judge sighed before replying, “I’ve heard that before, but the defendant’s not in the courtroom. You’re looking at the district attorney.” • Q: The tooth fairy, a high-priced lawyer, and a low-priced lawyer were sitting at a table. In the center of the table was a $100 bill. Suddenly the lights went out. When the lights came back on the bill was gone. Who took it? A: The high-priced lawyer, of course. The other two are imaginary. • Two cleaning ladies working in a large law firm building were chatting. “You know,” one said to the other, “Yesterday I asked an attorney on the third floor if I could empty his trash, and he billed me $75 for his time.” • One day the gate between heaven and hell fell off its hinges, as occasionally happened every millennium or so. St. Peter called down to the devil, “Hey, Lucifer, it’s your turn to fix the gate.” The devil yelled back, “Sorry, we’re too busy right now.” St. Peter answers, “Fine, but I’m suing you for breaking our agreement.” The devil chuckles as he replies, “Just where do you think you’re going to find a lawyer?”
Garner lists four rules about correctly using Jr., Sr., and III.1. The label Sr. should be used only rarely. If a son is born and called Oscar Ronald Jones, Jr., then the father is Oscar Ronald Jones, just as he was called before his son’s birth. Today some fathers insist on Sr.
2. A son drops the Jr. when his father dies. Exceptions: If the deceased father was quite famous than the son may retain Jr. to avoid confusion. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr., did that. Common usage today shows us some men prefer to keep the designation Jr. William F. Buckley, Jr., did that. If a man makes a name for himself as Jr., it’s understandable that he chooses to keep the Jr.
3. Jr. and Sr. aren’t used unless the names are identical. William Leonard Smith’s son, William Randolph Smith, is not a Jr., even when both choose to call themselves “William Smith.” Some journalists did this with the two Bush presidents, but the younger is not Jr. His name (George Walker Bush) is not identical to his father’s (George Herbert Walker Bush).
4. A male whose name is identical to his living father and living grandfather becomes III or 3rd. If his father dies and his grandfather is still living he keeps his III. If his grandfather dies he becomes Jr. This rule is ignored more often than not.
GARNER DIDN’T MENTION THIS, but a male named for a member of his family not his father can use the designation II. Some families, particularly with a famous ancestor, let the numbering get rather high, but being John Smith V is rather senseless and pompous.
Females certainly can refer to themselves as Sr. and Jr. informally, but this isn’t accepted formally. Most females take the family names of the men they marry, making Sr. and Jr. and III useless appendages. Their purpose is to distinguish one from another, not muddle the family tree.
BW (Bigtime Word) noisome – smelly in a nasty way. Your ears aren’t involved unless they stink.