Words are sentientless morsels of meaning – inert, impotent, unassuming and seemingly incapable of bad character; yet they take on a life, at times, quite their own. This little website experiment was inspired by an observation by Zechariah Chafee Jr. – not the first, but certainly one of the best to raise the notion – and it consequently adopts is the title of his 1941 Columbia Law Review article, Disorderly Conduct of Words, 41
Words are the principal tools of lawyers and judges, whether we like it or not. They are to us what the scalpel and insulin are to the doctor, or a theodite and sliderule to the civil engineer. So we need to know more about their imperfections.
To blame the words themselves is perhaps a deflection – it’s a poor workman that blames his tools – but it also reflects the tenacity and subtlety with which words sometimes depart from their intended meaning.