I'd be grateful to be advised and enlightened on the closure of Question on “subject to being disproved by the person accused”. I've only been interested in apprehending this sentence in the context of the English language; I'm not asking (and have never asked) about law or legal writing here.

The Legal tag does consist of questions from legal writs, yet why was this esteemed off-topic?

User tchrist asserts: 'This question appears to be off-topic because it is about the interpretation of legalese, not English'. Yet I'm asking about English, not 'interpretation of legalese'.

I've already referenced Waning gap of acceptable questions, Would someone please explain why these question closures are such a bad thing?,

  • 3
    There's nothing offtopic I can see. "Legalese" is just a variety of English, and sometimes it can be agreeably translated into modern English. This is one such case, imo. One more example of the general irrelevance of the tag system. Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 15:57
  • Does seem rather odd the tag 'legal' says 'Questions about the strange language of legalese.'
    – Frank
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 15:57
  • @JohnLawler Thank you for your support.
    – user50720
    Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 10:22

2 Answers 2


I don't think the question should have been closed as off-topic; legal jargon is as much part of English as any other jargon (subject to the obvious caveats where interpretation becomes giving legal advice).

On the other hand, I do think it should have been closed as General Reference. The bolded phrase you ask about means exactly what you think it does; you appear to have assumed, rashly, that the word never earlier in the sentence applies only to the word "presumed", rather than to the phrase "presumed, subject to being disproved by the person accused". That doen't seem to me to merit reopening.

The point is that closevotes are not a matter of fact; they are an expression of (expert) opinion. If you, with enough reputation, say to yourself "That question should be closed; now which reason should I give?" and four other people, asking themselves the same question, come to different answers, the question will be closed, and probably remain so; that is the way the system is designed. The fact that I and someone else agree that the question should be closed is of more importance than the fact that we disagree on the reason.

  • 1
    +1 particularly for the final sentence. Personally, I dithered over whether to endorse reopening - in the end I left it closed mainly because I think questioners on ELU should be capable of parsing relatively "dense" phrasing like this. On ELL, I'd probably have voted to reopen purely to see how clearly someone else could have deconstructed the syntax for the benefit of anyone who didn't understand it. Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 20:41

There's an overarching consideration here. I'd suggest that very few of the contributors here have much familiarity with arcane legal senses of words and the unwieldy (if not actually ungrammatical) piling together of clauses. Comparing it with scientific conventions, say, I'd say that just as it's inappropriate to ask how to correctly write bicyclo[3.2.1]heptatrienyl-CoCp+ on ELU, so questions involving other highly specialised registers should be asked elsewhere. If some of the sentences submitted for analysis in the legal area had actually been written by the OP, we'd have been asking for clarifying rewrites.

As for the frequency of the asking of these questions at the moment, it does invite the question 'Are contributors being asked to fulfil the role that tutors are customarily paid to fulfil?' Not exactly homework, but its first cousin.

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