Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Time is of the Essence or at Large

Image result for clock antique  printI've used the phrase time is of the essence all my life without realising that it has a quite precise legal meaning. I just thought that it meant something like get your skates on or show a leg or hurry up. But it is much stronger than that. Time is of the essence because it's essential to the contract.

Contracts usually have a deadline in them, but it's not that important. If I have a contract to write a book and I hand it in a month late nobody particularly cares. The world remains quite extraordinarily calm.

Some contracts, like building ones have a deadline where the supplier is penalised a bit if they're late. But the contract itself still stands (and has usually taken all this into account).

But sometimes the whole contract is based on the deadline, and if the deadlines is missed the contract is null and void. If I'm delivering perishable goods, like milk, to you, and it arrives three weeks late and very sour: then the goods are worthless. The deadline is broken and with it the whole contract. You pay me nothing.

A wedding cake that arrives too late is no longer a wedding cake. It is mere cake. The essence of the task, the central part of it, has been destroyed.

In cases like this the contract stipulates that time is of the essence, which means that failure to meet the deadline renders the contract defunct.

The opposite of time is of the essence is the much rarer, but rather beautiful time at large. Time at large, in a contract, means that the task must be done, but it really doesn't matter when. Take your time. Have cup of tea. Go for a stroll. Wander around like a lazy outlaw who is at large.

You can find out more from these two articles on construction contracts.

A grand tip of the hat to the Antipodean for pointing this out to me. And for those who like a little light swearing:

P.S. For anybody interested. My book A Short History of Drunkenness is now out in Polish, Italian, Estonian, Romanian and Portuguese (for the Brazilian market).

Thursday, 6 September 2018

A Measure of Rudeness

Image result for dr syntax rowlandsonI've found something beautiful. The British television regulator, Ofcom, whose job it is to see that we are shocked politely, commissioned a study of exactly how rude rude words were. The poll was carried out by Ipsos Mori who went off and quite earnestly asked a representative sample of the Great British public what they thought about the word tits.

This is therefore the official British list of naughty words.

The results, in all their muddied glory, are available online here. They're rather fascinating, and very usefully arranged by subject. So if you were trying to mildly insult an old man, but couldn't think of anything to say, you could consult the survey and find:

Coffin Dodger: Mild language, generally of little concern. Seen as humorous, including by older participants. Some said that more aggression or specific intent to hurt would heighten impact, but not common enough for this to be based on experience.

Some of the words in the survey were previously unknown to me. I had never in my life heard of a bloodclaat or a chi-chi man, which shows that I am an essentially innocent person. I'd also not heard the term Iberian Salute, although a quick check on the Internet shows what it is (bend your right elbow, clench your right fist with the knuckles facing away from you, put your left hand on your right bicep. The French call it the bras d'honneur).

Anyhow, it's a fascinating read, and you can measure your opinion of a word's rudeness against that of the general public. My favourite line in it, though, came under Discriminatory Language, subsection Race and Ethnicity.

Taff: Medium language, potentially unacceptable. Some uncertainty outside Wales about how offensive it is to Welsh people.

It is time to end this uncertainty. I'm off on a research trip to Offa's Dyke with a megaphone and a pair of binoculars.

The perils of life in Oswestry