The law leaves skeuomorphs in language

by @edent | # #

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.
Terry Pratchett

The law leaves indelible traces in our language. In the UK, cars have to undergo an annual vehicle safety inspection – known as the MOT. Everyone refers to “getting your MOT done”, cars are sold with “6 months MOT”, even human health-checks are known as an MOT.

The letters MOT stand for Ministry of Transport. That office hasn’t existed for FIFTY YEARS!

The last time anyone was literally read the Riot Act was 100 years ago – although it wasn’t officially repealed until 1967. And yet, 300 years after its introduction, the phrase hangs on.

People who are detained against their will due to their mental health are said to be “sectioned“. This relates to various sections of The Mental Health Act 1983. The act is still in force, but it has effectively taken over the word “section”. The police can compel you to reveal your passwords under Section 49 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 – but no one calls that “being sectioned”.

Home rentals often (despicably) include a “No DSS” clause. It is meant to mean the rental is unavailable to anyone claiming benefits from the Department of Social Security. Again, a defunct government body – it was replaced by the Department of Work and Pensions in 2001.

The ASBO – Anti Social Behaviour Order – was withdrawn 5 years ago. But it has spread memetically through our language.

I’m sure there are dozen of other examples in your jurisdiction – please leave a comment with your favourite.

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