Prolix redefinedRichard Treadgold | September 18, 2012
To be a judge in New Zealand is to wield substantial power. Here we have evidence that judicial power can reverse the meaning of a word.
The judgement in our case against NIWA said at paragraph 9:
Both the original statement of claim and the first amended statement of claim were prolix.
The word “prolix” comes from the Latin “prolixus”, which means “extended” (literally “poured out”) or “courteous, favourable”. It has come to mean “tediously lengthy, bombastic, long-winded, verbose, wordy.”
It’s not used as a compliment. When a judge describes your submission as prolix he’s saying “your explanatory skills are poor, you waffle and you have wasted much of my time.”
When I first read the comment by Mr Justice Venning I gulped, thinking our counsel had made an unfortunate error that perhaps helped to turn the case against us.
But I’ve been sent a comparison of the documents in the two submissions and now I have to wonder why Venning J put the description prolix against the plaintiff’s case rather than the defence’s. Perhaps he just mixed them up accidentally. For otherwise he has given the meaning of prolix a push in a strange direction. Here’s the comparison (in pages):Number of pages
|Statement of Claim/Defence||15||20|
- For the primary statements to the Court NIWA used 33% more paper than we needed.
- For the affidavits, NIWA’s witnesses used nearly twice as many pages as ours.
- And for the submissions, NIWA wound up the waffle big time – it was nearly three times more verbose than the Coalition.
The judge called our statement of claim prolix when the facts are that we were succinct – NIWA was the long-winded one.
Overall, more than twice as tedious (2.2 times).