Black's Law Dictionary Revealed as Hoax!

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 04/23/2008 - 7:35pm.



Sarah Medhurst (nee Black) shocked journalists and legal scholars at a press conference held at the Black family estate Monday when she revealed that Black's Law Dictionary, a highly regarded legal reference text, was originally written as a joke by her eccentric great grandfather Henry Campbell Black.

Medhurst appeared unapologetic, suggesting that the Black family had never tried very hard to keep it a secret. "Have any of you actually taken the time to read it?" she asked, flipping open the renowned text.

"Look at page 840 for instance. 'John-a-Nokes'? Or how about page 347? 'Correality - the quality or state of being correal." She then cast a challenging look around the room.

Medhurst admitted that the entire Black family has participated in the century-long ruse, working together to generate content for the ever-expanding text.

She credits her Uncle Bertrand with developing one of their most successful filler techniques: "We created more than 30 new entries just by using the word 'actual'. Actual agency - see agency. Actual allegiance - see allegiance. Actual authority - see authority. And on and on - you get the idea."

Medhurst admits that the family started to get lazy in later editions, at times resorting to stealing terms from other dictionaries. "I remember one time my brother pulled 'Le Roi' (literally: "the king") right out of his French-English dictionary to meet the deadline for the 5th edition while on a three-week ski trip in the French Alps."

She claims the ploy has been used sparingly, however, and that the family put a stop to the practice when her brother started bringing the Official Scrabble Dictionary to editorial meetings. 1

Henry Campbell Black had never intended - or even imagined - that his dictionary would become the authoritative source for legal terminology. "My great granddad had actually written the text for an upcoming firm skit night", Medhurst explains.

"It was his way of showing how convoluted and, well, pompous the legal profession had become." The dictionary became an instant hit, however, and Henry Black's comedic intentions went unnoticed.

When the money started to roll in, Black elected to pursue a highly lucrative career in legal publishing instead of becoming a marginally talented prop comic.

When asked why the family is revealing the fake after all this time, Medhurst stated that they had grown tired of living a lie, and were genuinely concerned that the universally accepted legal lexicon "is actually just a bunch of made-up gibberish."

The family is asking that lawyers and students alike immediately dispose of any editions of Black's Law Dictionary into the nearest trash receptacle or recycle bin.

West Group, the current publisher of Black's, could not be reached for comment.


Reuters - Montreal, PQ - May 28, 2003 - posted at


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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 04/23/2008 - 7:35pm.


Anonymous (not verified) | Sun, 04/27/2008 - 12:47am

Holy shit!!

Anonymous (not verified) | Sat, 04/26/2008 - 7:52am

There is questionable validity to this story. For one, a yahoo group from 2003 has a thread discussing the same "press conference" for two, the word correal that Sarah Medhurst supposedly uses to prove the fallacy of the law dictionary is actually a legal term from Roman law meaning "In both roman and modern law, there may be more than one creditor or debtor in the same transaction. The obligation of co-creditors or co- debtors is known as correality. Joint or correal obligations are found in many modern systems of law, such as the anglo-American, French, Spanish, German and Japanese." quoted from a book called "Roman Law in the Modern World." There is also a book called the Systematic and "Historical Exposition of Roman Law in the Order of a Code" which references correality. If a website is based on the premise of actuating the truth in information, what's to be said of the same web site's credibility in the event a mistruth is misrepresented as being true?

Jonathan | Thu, 05/29/2008 - 7:50am

We only have 2 staff members who do ALL the maintaining and posting to this site. If there are 10 things out of 1000 which are not accurate... I'm sorry but that's not that bad. We can only do sooo much. You study in your area of expertise... right? - So do we. There are just too many things to follow in this world. Not just politics and law. We do this service for free. If you can manage to find a way for us to hire you to be some editor of something.. then please tell us. - Cheers.

HPS (not verified) | Thu, 04/24/2008 - 3:40pm

The hoax is a 2003 hoax . . .originally found at a satirical website. See discussion tab at Wikipedia. Rats.