Origin of the Word Attorney February 6, 2007Posted by gordonwatts in life.
My uncle is a lawyer and a painter. Recently he got an award for his painting and in the pamphlet it was listed as an “Attroney”. Poking fun, I asked what that was and here, in typical Uncle fasion, is what came back:
Fortunately my regular medium was “on duty” and was able to contact my OLD law professor Julius Goebel, an expert in legal history, now buried along with the now long defunct origins of legal jargon “in the dark backward and abysm of time.”
“To the best of my knowledge and belief, affiant sayeth as follows:”
The term “attroney” arrived in England at or about 1066 (Norman Conquest??) along with the quaint Norman notion that trial by combat (“le tournament”) was the best way to go since all disputes were invariably settled (“dead and buried”, so to speak).
A certain somewhat shady breed of character was known to haunt these episodes, offering to “stand in” for the hapless accused. These initially carried the moniker: “a toro nez” or “bull nose” in honor of their noticeably pugnacious character and ability to extract hansome fees.
While intially uncomfortable with these hangers on, the English (in true accomodating fashion) eventually accepted these “a toro nez” under the not inappropriate elsion: “Attroney.”
Unfortunately too many of these characters would inhabit the assizes, acompanied by the perjorative: “Ah, trow ‘im out.”
With due regard for “too close for comfort” an association was formed and, in honor of its rising influence, decreed that its members should be known as “attorney” instead of “attroney“, thereby masking in a cloak of false dignity what was obviously an occupation whose nefarious shadyness had only grown over the years.
Naturally the rewriting of history would not be complete without a wholesale expungement of any reference to the now-hated term in any dictionary, even that of Samuel Johnson (not ever known for being comprehensive).
Such tortured exercises are not unknown in English literature, but invariably serve a useful purpose. For example, who cannot but lament the fate of poor Frederick whose luckless apprenticeship to a “pirate” was to last until 1940? If only there had been a less confusing name!
“Further affiant sayeth not.”