Updating the OED IV: New words!

My most ambitious effort so far has been suggesting the new words "cert" and "certworthy." The OED doesn't have "certworthy" (though I think I heard some other dictionaries do), and it has "cert" in an entirely different sense ("this horse is a dead cert to win"). By the way, the OED's recently added entries include "yada yada," "Google" (v.), "calzone," and "fucking A." ("Calzone" indicates that sometimes even a not-new word takes a while to get noticed.)

Here's a portion of the list I sent for "cert" as short for "certiorari" in its adjectival sense (I've tried as much as possible to use popular media, not legal reporters):

1981 N.Y. Times 26 Oct. A20 Court rules limit the requests for review, the "petitions for a writ of certiorari" that everyone calls "cert petitions," to 30 pages. 1989 N.Y. Times 3 Nov. B7 A major Court task is the review of thousands of cert petitions, requests for the High Court to hear cases decided in a lower court. 1994 Christian Science Monitor 28 Nov. 12 The sharp rise in cert petitions since the late 1980s can be attributed primarily to an increase in filings by criminal defendants appealing convictions. 1998 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 10 Nov. 12 He filed an amicus brief in support of the cert petition. 2001 St. Louis Post-Dispatch 8 Mar. B1 It is something called a writ of certiorari, or, as it is more commonly known, a "cert petition." 2003 New Jersey Lawyer 27 Oct. 1/3 The following Tuesday they consider 60 cert petitions, discuss argued cases and vote on them. 2004 L.A. Times 5 Dec. 18 Having a cert petition granted is roughly 20 times harder than gaining early admission to Harvard. 2005 N.Y. Times 31 Jul. 11 Much of the clerks' work consisted of summarizing the thousands of requests that the court receives each year to hear particular cases, known as petitions for writs of certiorari, or cert. petitions. 2006 Southern Reporter (2d series) CMXXV. 91 In considering the State's cert petition, we deem it necessary to address today only one issue.

Here's the noun sense:

1986 N.Y. Times 24 Jun. A24 One reason I do my own certs [petitions for certiorari, in which parties ask the Court to hear a case], excepting summertime when I let my incoming clerks do them, is that I think the screening process to decide what we should take and decide is as important as the decisional process. 1986 Dallas Morning News 30 Dec. 22b It's also a big chance, if they do grant cert (certiorari), to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court. 1987 New Republic 16 Feb. 18 It takes four votes to grant cert and hear a case. 1990 Journal of Commerce 6 Apr. 10A Industry players have "guarded optimism" that the court will grant "cert," or jurisdiction, in the Reserve Life case, according to Douglas Martin, vice president and counsel at Fireman's Fund Insurance Co., Novato, Calif. 1995 Washington Times 27 Feb. A4 "On occasion it is appropriate to restate the settled proposition that this court's denial of certiorari does not constitute a ruling on the merits," Justice Stevens wrote in a rare commentary on refusal to "grant cert" as lawyers call it. 2002 Legal Times 17 May 1 If the Supreme Court does grant cert, the case will likely occupy a commanding place in the nation's First Amendment jurisprudence. 2004 San Francisco Chronicle 15 Apr. F5 He considered writing a separate brief, but decided the justices would be more likely to grant cert if the attorneys general stood together. 2005 Miami Herald 23 Sept. A3 It is not clear whether the court, which meets starting Oct. 3, will decide whether to "grant cert," before Brownback begins hearing motions at Guantánamo Bay. 2006 American Lawyer Jan. 74 D.C. partner Donald Verrilli, Jr., 48, decided that the usual route for getting the Supreme Court to grant cert — emphasizing a conflict in the circuits — wasn't likely to work.

And, the pièce de résistance, "certworthy," meaning "worthy of review (i.e., granting a writ of certiorari) by the Supreme Court":

1963 U.S. Reports CCCLXXV. 38 Accordingly, while I believe the case is not "certworthy," I would affirm the judgment below. 1970 U.S. Reports CCCXCVIII. 963 I am at a loss to understand how questions of such importance can be deemed not "certworthy." 1970 Federal Reporter (2d series) CDXXXIII. 283 Whatever might be left of the issue on any appeal from the really 'final' final judgment some day to be entered, the case is not certworthy as an interlocutory appeal. 1983 U.S. Reports CDLIX. 447 I question that this case was "certworthy." 1983 U.S. Reports CDLXIV. 58 n.3 Therefore, the Court's conclusion that the claim raised by Williams is not "certworthy" is directly contradicted by the Court's previous actions in Pulley. 1989 Federal Suppl. DCCV. 1314 Counsel in fact took an appeal on Ginsberg's behalf, raising an issue (RICO forfeiture) that was not only a difficult one but was potentially "certworthy." 1990 Federal Reporter (2d series) CMXV. 714 Indeed, until this case, the United States was the primary proponent of limiting the vacatur remedy to certworthy moot civil appeals. 1995 Atlantic Reporter (2d series) DCLXV. 1038 ORDERED, by the Court of Appeals of Maryland, that the writ of certiorari be, and it is hereby, dismissed with costs, the petition having been improvidently granted as it is of no prospective importance and thus not certworthy in light of 1995 Laws of Maryland, Chapter 625, effective October 1, 1995. 1996 Federal Reporter (3d series) CI. 980 Were we to grant the stay of execution here, I believe that we would, alternatively, court summary reversal or affirmatively mislead the Supreme Court into concluding that we believe that the underlying issue in this case is certworthy when we do not so believe. 2004 Metropolitan Corporate Counsel Aug. 23/1 This article explains the cert petition process, sets forth the considerations affecting whether to file an opposition, and discusses the indicia of a "certworthy" case. 2005 Legal Times 15 Aug. 60 The office is understandably concerned that if it began expressing its view that certain private cases were certworthy, the Court would draw a negative inference with respect to all other cases, in effect requiring the office to assume the herculean task of reviewing all pending petitions. 2006 Legal Times 20 Mar. 11 It strikes me that the case is quite clearly "un-certworthy."

Next post: We enter the 7th century!

P.S. In case you were interested in the first post of this series, there are some updates, based on the comments. Query: Why are there comments on the first and third posts, but no interest in "Mirandize" (second post)?

UPDATE: Reader Arthur Hellman gets a prize! In the comments, he posted the citation of a Harlan speech to the N.Y. City Bar Ass'n from... 1958. Once I verify this, it goes to the OED in an update e-mail.

Aaron Haspel (mail):
The case for "cert" seems shaky, for "certworthy" shakier still. More than half of the citations for "certworthy," and a significant minority for "cert," put the word in quotation marks, indicating that even its users aren't entirely sure that it belongs in the dictionary.
7.11.2006 12:17pm
Can someone clarify what the correct pronunciation of 'certiorari' is. Every professor at UCLA law pronounces it differently -- so somebody must be wrong.
7.11.2006 12:33pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Xrayspec: Sersh a RARE ee.

Aaron Haspel: Some of the occurrences I cite use quote marks, some don't. The OED doesn't seem to mind, as long as it's really an expression -- the people who use the expression aren't the arbiters of whether it belongs in the dictionary, much less whether it will belong in the dictionary after many other people use it (at least, perhaps, as long as not everyone uses the quote marks). See, for instance, the usage of "google" as a verb, not in the Internet meaning, but in the older meaning of "to bowl a googly in cricket"; two of the five cases they list are in quotes. Same goes for one of the four occurrences they cite for "Mirandize" and one of the two for "Mirandized."
7.11.2006 12:48pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
So what is a "calzone", other than a pizza tart?
7.11.2006 1:09pm
lucia (mail) (www):
I'll throw out an answer to the final question. My premises are: People read if a subject interests them. They post when they have something they want to say. Based on this, I'll suggest two reasons for no comments on the Mirandize posts.

First: it's origin isn't Latin. This means the Latin lovers (and their appear to be many) don't have an opportunity to speculate about the path the word traveled on it's way to becoming English.

Second: Though used in police detective shows, mirandize really is a purely legal term. That limits the number of people who use the term or who can suggest how the term is used.
7.11.2006 1:15pm
Bob Loblaw (www):
On the pronunciation of certiorari...

I realize Sasha has had far more opportunities to hear the word pronounced by those actually doing the granting, BUT I have always heard the word pronounced as a five-syllable word rather than a four syllable word (and more often ending RAH-ree (rhymes with Ferrari) than ending RARE-ee (rhymes with fairy)).

So in my experience it would be pronounced either:

7.11.2006 2:20pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Whatever you do, don't pronounce "kert-ee-oh-raree," as is reported in Dave Hardy's comment to a recent post of Eugene's.
7.11.2006 2:54pm
a clerk:

fo shizzle.
7.11.2006 2:59pm
lucia (mail) (www):
I just read the list. Vice grip and vise grip just got in?!
7.11.2006 3:01pm
amn (mail):
I would like to see the OED defintion of "fucking A".
7.11.2006 5:04pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
A. adj. In you're fucking A: completely right, absolutely correct. [examples starting 1948]

B. adv. As an intensifier: completely, absolutely, to a great extent. Freq. expressing anger or frustration. [examples starting 1960]

C. int. Expressing approval, agreement, certainty, or excitement. [examples starting 1968]
7.11.2006 5:35pm
Arthur D. Hellman (mail):
As far as I am aware, the first published use of "certworthy" is in Justice Harlan's lecture to the NYC Bar Association, published under the title "Manning the Dikes," 13 REC. A.B. CITY N.Y. 541, 549 (1958).He said: "Frequently, the question whether a case is 'certworthy' [yes, quotation marks] is more a matter of 'feel' than of precisely ascertainable rules."
7.11.2006 8:11pm
Bob Loblaw (www):
A very entertaining article about the pronunciation of "certiorari" on page 4 of this document:

Law for Latin Lovers

FWIW, the "correct" Anglicized pronunciation it gives (which "reliably models the wretched abomination this wicked Anglicization hath wrought and the legal community timidly agreed upon") is the five-syllable "sir she uh RAH ree", while the "bold" (but wrong) take on certiorari "suggests a medical condition afflicting one's sight": the (also five-syllable) "sir she o RARE eye".
7.11.2006 9:14pm
Bob Loblaw (www):
Oops, try this...

Law for Latin Lovers
7.11.2006 9:18pm
John Jenkins (mail):
I gave up on any reasonable Latin pronunciations the minute I got to law school. Some of the mangling is despairing and no one will ever pronounce certiorari correctly, so it's a lost cause (I think it's kert-ee-or-are-ee, for those who care). Just the fact that they use j's tells you it's going to be crappy (it's eiusdem generis, damn it).

I think there are no comments on Mirandize because it's a neologism to describe something itself created out of whole cloth. There's nothing really to argue about.
7.11.2006 10:09pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
I've posted an update.
7.11.2006 10:34pm
Bob Loblaw (www):
John J.-

I think you're right on the actual Latin pronunciation.
7.11.2006 11:46pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Man, has there ever been a greater need (on a comment thread) for a unicode phonetic character set? :)
7.12.2006 10:07am
I don't think "cert" is OEDworthy, because it is simply an abbreviation for "certiorari," and properly deserves a period, i.e., "cert." as it is in the Bluebook, "cert. denied 01/01/1980."

Most of the citations say something like, "certiorari petitions, what the lawyers call 'cert petitions'" . . . . The lack of a period is an error in transcription of what people say. The reporter apparently couldn't hear the period, even though it was there. If some reporter writes, "The Oxford English Dicionary, which people call 'oweedee,'" it doesn't make "oweedee" a word, even if several reporters make the same mistake.

Which Justice in 1986 referred to a cert. petitions as "certs"? I am guessing Marshall. That is an unusual usage, at least in my experience.
7.12.2006 10:39am
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
DJR: Be careful what you call non-OEDworthy -- the OED editors may disagree. Here's the first entry for "cert" meaning "certainty" (as in "a dead cert"): 1889 Man of the World 29 June 3/2 Love-in-Idleness is bound to take the Rous Memorial, and I hear Pioneer is a cert. for the St. James's. See also the first entry for "spec": 1794 J. ADAMS Wks. (1856) I. 469 Many merchants have already made a noble spec. of the embargo by raising their prices.

Just because something's an abbreviation for an existing word doesn't mean it doesn't belong in the dictionary as its own word -- the test should be whether (regardless of spelling) it's used as its own word.

I don't recall which Justice said "certs" in 1986, but I think it wasn't Marshall. Perhaps Brennan, perhaps Stevens.
7.12.2006 11:02am
I would be fine with an entry for "cert." with the meaning "abbreviation for certiorari." I can't seem to navigate OED online to get the usage notes you find, but I do note that "cert," meaning "certainty" is not in the Oxford Dictionary of Current American English. What the Brits do with abbreviations is their own business. I have never heard or read the usage of "cert" as meaning certainty.

I do note that the Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court has an entry for "Cert Pool," which, though contrary to my personal preferences, might lend support to your argument.
7.12.2006 11:34am
Speaking of cert. pools, the 1998 Justice reviewing his own cert. petitions would have to have been Brennan, Stevens, or Marshall, since all the others were participating in said pool.
7.12.2006 12:01pm
Ira B. Matetsky (mail):
The Harlan article is based on a speech that he gave as the annual Cardozo Lecture of the ABCNY, which are collected in a 3-volume set that may be easier for non-New Yorkers to get their hands on than the RECORD.
7.12.2006 5:24pm