Where the law fails, swearing succeeds

A recent brush with legal expenses insurance makes one of this year’s Ig Nobel Literature Prize winning team’s efforts particularly interesting. Eric Martinez, Francis Mollica and Edward Gibson won a 2022 Ig Nobel Prize after pinning down what makes legal documents unnecessarily difficult to understand. Their paper is titled ‘Poor Writing, Not Specialized Concepts, Drives Processing Difficulty in Legal Language.’

In other words while the law itself isn’t hard to understand, the language used by lawyers and the way they use it is a problem.

Having experienced the glory of legalese for myself earlier this year, I agree. The solicitor exploring my legal expenses claim managed to make a simple matter unbelievably complicated. Their findings ran to many, many pages of legal assumptions, ultimately going wildly off-piste and failing to ask the right questions. All we wanted them to do was write a letter on our behalf, not send the perps to jail. When I re-explained they got all huffy, coming back with wads more legalese to justify themselves.

I was left feeling let down by the solicitor’s poor communication skills and failure to understand the issue. But there was another let-down in store. In a world where the user experience is everything, the insurance company didn’t ask for a review of our claim, feedback, or anything else. Left dangling, we can only assume they don’t care how it went or how we feel about the cover we pay for.

It’s enough to make a girl swear, which is a good thing according to a recent study into the power of swearing. Strong language apparently produces a painkilling effect, increasing pain tolerance and sending our pain threshold higher. It reduces the perception of pain and increases physical strength. Swearing even improves persuasiveness and boosts the credibility of messages. And because it gives us such a ‘uniquely powerful’ means to express emotions, it drives strong ‘positive and negative interpersonal relations’.

Well, thank fuck for that.

Here’s wishing you a lovely festive break, and the kind of new year you dream about.

PS. If you fancy a festive giggle, take a look at the Darwin Awards website.

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