Ever wonder where the phrase “null and void” or “breaking and entering” came from? Blame the French.
From Drafting Contracts: How and Why Lawyers Do What They Do, by Tina L. Stark, Aspen Publishers – Wolters Kluwers, 2007, p. 204, based in turn on The Language of the Law, David Mellinoff, Little, Brown & Co., 1963, Chapter 9.
“The profusion of couplets and triplets [e.g., null and void] reflects the evolution of the English language. After the Normans invaded England in 1066, French slowly became the language used in English courts and contracts. It predominated from the mid-thirteenth century to the mid-fifteenth century.
Not unexpectedly, the English came to resent the use of French and began once again to use English for legal matters. As the use of French began to wane, English lawyers were faced with a recurring problem. When they went to translate a French legal terms into an English legal term, they were often unsure whether the English word had the same connotation.
The solution was obvious: Use both the French and the English word. For example, free and clear is actually a combination of the Old English word free and the French word clair. [Another example:] breaking and entering (Old English and Old French).
Compounding this penchant for joining French and English synonyms was the English custom of joining synonyms, especially those that were alliterative and rhythmic.
- to have and to hold
- aid and abet
- part and parcel”
Tags: couplets, synonyms
Ronald G. Ross
Ron Ross, Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rules Solutions, LLC, is internationally acknowledged as the “father of business rules.” Recognizing early on the importance of independently managed business rules for business operations and architecture, he has pioneered innovative techniques and standards since the mid-1980s. He wrote the industry’s first book on business rules in 1994.