Tony Mauro at Legal Times alerted people last week to this exchange at oral argument:

MS. SAHARSKY [of the Solicitor General's office]: What I'm suggesting, Your Honor, is that the "that" refers to everything that is in Romanette (i) and (ii) up to the break with "committed by." So that it is an offense that is a misdemeanor and has as an element "committed by." You know, these — these two different clauses both modify "offense," just as a grammatical matter, not looking at this Romanette (i) and (ii), but just looking at that sentence.


MS. SAHARSKY: Oh, little Roman numeral.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I've never heard that before. That's — Romanette.

A lawyer teaching a Justice a new word at oral argument is rare, partly because the Justices know pretty much all the words they need to know, and partly because no lawyer wants to either confuse a Justice or be seen as showing off. So I suspect that Ms. Saharsky used the word entirely without thinking about it: To her, it was quite normal, though to the Chief Justice it was unknown (as it was to me and to some other lawyers I've talked to).

So what's going on? The word is in no dictionary that I could find. It appears in no Nexis-searchable publication. A Google search for "Romanette" in English-language pages revealed fewer than 35 pages that used the word before Monday, once all the false positives (the names of people, horses, green bean varieties, blinds, and the like) were removed.

And yet the word, with precisely the meaning Ms. Saharasky used, appears in six court opinions, from federal court in Oklahoma, bankruptcy courts in Texas and Pennsylvania, and state courts in Minnesota, plus ten sources in Westlaw's TP-ALL database (all in practitioner journals, not in traditional law reviews). And the Google hits — mostly from legal documents — come from a similarly wide range of sources: the minutes of a Novato, California City Council meeting, a manual of contract drafting, a transcript of an Idaho Senate commitee meeting, and more. What's more, all but a few use the word as matter-of-factly as Ms. Saharasky did, without any indication that the word is anything novel and unusual; the remaining ones are queries about what the word means or brief discussions of its meaning.

The earliest source I could find is this 1993 book on Corporate Internal Investigations; apparently the word seemed commonplace to the author even then. Most of the sources are from the last five years, but some go back to the 1990s. And I suspect that the word's ratio of spoken/written uses is probably much higher than for many other words, because it's a way of verbalizing written symbols. In writing, we can just say "subsection (ii)," but when we pronounce it, we need something more than that, and for some people "Romanette" is that something more. This suggests that the term might be more common than my Google search suggests.

Still, what strikes me about the term is that many of its users seem to assume that it's widely known, even though many other experienced lawyers — pretty much all of the handful of lawyers that I've run this by — have never heard of it. One can expect this for some terms widely known by lawyers but not by laypeople (such as "conclusory"); many users of such terms might think the whole world knows the term because so many of their friends are lawyers.

But how would a term such as "Romanette" become so commonplace in some widely dispersed legal circles, to the point that its users assume that it's widely known, but so unknown to others within the same profession? Did it arise at some particular law school, or in some law firm, or among users of some particular drafting manuals, and thus seem common to people who have been exposed to it but unknown to others? Or am I mistaken in my conjecture, and the users of the word like it so much — or think it's so good for showing off — that they use it even though they know many listeners don't understand it?

If you have some answers to these questions, I'd love to hear them in the comments.

Google it, and Garner uses it in one of his legal writing treatises. Saharsky's manner at oral argument is also noticeably blase (that's just the way she talks) so I wouldn't infer anything from it. It's a great word though, and I'm going to use it obsessively now.
11.18.2008 9:43am
I've heard it used both at oral argument and in depositions (by deponents and lawyers alike), so I'm in the camp of people who assumed it was widely known, though I don't use the term all that often. It seems to make sense to me that a small Roman numeral would be indicated by a diminutive suffix, though, so I'd think that in some contexts, a listener might be able to understand what is meant by "Romanette" even if it was a word they had never heard before. No offense to the Chief Justice, of course.
11.18.2008 9:43am
Anon #319:
I believe my Torts and Civ Pro professor used it frequently. I don't recall anyone else using it--ever.
11.18.2008 9:45am
arthur (mail):
No answer, but as I thank you for the proper word to use at oral argument next week on the construction of 15 USC s 78u-4(a)(3)(B)(i) through (vi).
11.18.2008 9:46am
Temple Student:
I first heard this word this semester, but it was in a bankruptcy class at a PA law school. Maybe it's just the local court (as you mention in the post) rubbing off on my professor, who used to do bankruptcy practice before teaching.
11.18.2008 9:50am
marc (mail):
I am looking at 'arthur's' post, "No answer, but as I thank you...". So how do you lawyers pronounce "15USC s 78u-4(a)(3)(B)(i)"? Is that (i) pronounced 'one' or do you all say something else...?
11.18.2008 9:53am
I picked it up at least 15 years ago from a colleague. I use it, because it fills a need. "Small triple i" always sounds silly to me.
11.18.2008 9:54am
Tracy Johnson (www):
Well, after it hits this blog, it is sure going to be used a lot NOW!

Who wants to bet Andrew Napolitano uses it first on Fox News?
11.18.2008 9:55am
someone has a lot of time on his hands this week...
11.18.2008 9:58am
Wheat Free Terrier (mail):
This word is in fairly wide use at my firm, though I did not know it coming out of law school and our new attorneys do not seem to know it.

Use of "romanette" seems to connote seniority. While intuitively understood by most uninitiated listeners, the word does seem to convey the understanding that the speaker is an insider, someone who employs a fairly esoteric word knowing that the listener may or may not be aware of its meaning.
11.18.2008 9:59am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
"Is that (i) pronounced 'one' or do you all say something else...?"

I use "little i." Been practicing 30+ years, and this case is the first time I've heard the word "romanette,"

It could also be a Dept of Justice fad. In my day, no DoJ staffer could write a brief without using the word "quintessential." I doubt there was a requirement in their Departmental Manual, but they just loved the word. Today that seems to have passed.

(Local fad: when you want to show something to the jury, you formerly just asked permission to "show it to the jury." Present fad is to ask to "publish it to the jury."
11.18.2008 10:03am
Transactional lawyers (commercial and real estate, at least) use "romanette" all the time in my experience. It's often heard on conference calls negotiating long contracts with endless levels of subsections. I don't recall the term from law school, but have heard in commonly in practice all over the mid-atlantic and northeast.
11.18.2008 10:11am
I think Aultimer has it right. This is known and used by corporate/transactional types and is apparently unknown to the litigators.
11.18.2008 10:14am
Pyrrhus (mail) (www):
If subsection (ii) is vocalized as "Romanette 2", how do you say subsection (II) "Roman 2"?
11.18.2008 10:16am
I was shocked to read that Roberts was unfamiliar with it. I thought it was very common and I've used it without explanation many times. I assume that I learned it in law school but that was long enough ago that I don't remember for sure.
11.18.2008 10:17am
A Law Clerk:
I am clerking in NY and just asked some of my fellow clerks if they had heard the word "romanette." No one has. We all did agree, however, that the word does an excellent job of filling in a language gap, replacing the awkward "double little eye" with a concise "romanette two."

We also decided we are going to use to word as much as possible and ridicule all those who are not in the know.
11.18.2008 10:20am
Zathras (mail):
But how would a term such as "Romanette" become so commonplace in some widely dispersed legal circles, to the point that its users assume that it's widely known, but so unknown to others within the same profession?

This is an example of a general phenomena for people who do (i) specialized work (ii) where the vast bulk of that specialized work is done by themselves. Most of the people who use it saw it used at some point, looked it up, and internalized the definition for many years (thinking about its meaning whenever they saw the Romanettes used, but never speaking it out loud). Over many years it becomes a natural part of that person's vocabulary with hardly ever using it in speech.

It's a kind of internal vocabulary. Someone I talked to once referred to this as a "Tower of Babel effect," and I think that is a good description of it.
11.18.2008 10:25am
Raffi (mail) (www):
I'm a transactional lawyer, and the term is widely known in our circles. And if it didn't exist, we'd make it up, I suspect, because it's desperately needed to walk through a contract with a client or with the opposing side.
11.18.2008 10:26am
JSTR (mail):
I agree with Aultimer and GD. I was introduced to this almost immediately upon beginning my transactional practice. It certainly fills a need, as very long agreements with very many subsections are discussed over the phone as a matter of course for us. Other solutions seem inappropriate or confusing (for instance I have heard it phrased as "little one/two/etc. in the hole"). What is interesting from my perspective is that, judging fomr the post, many attorneys appear never to have heard of it. There may be some sampling error here; I would hazard a guess that the attorneys most likely to have been consulted by our dear Prof. Volokh are either professors with a (shortish) history of litigation practice or litigators.
11.18.2008 10:27am
Seems to me that all words are like this. Someone uses a word you've never heard of yet is amazingly appropriate and useful. For the same reason, you assume it's been around for a while and that everybody knows it. Accordingly, you start to use it nonchalantly.

Isn't all language-acquisition like this? When we were young, our parents pointed to a banana and said, "This is a banana." And we just started calling it a banana. We didn't say, "What a curious word -- i was simply calling it a Soft Yellow Wand." We just accepted it.

Same with romanette.
11.18.2008 10:29am
U.Va. Grad:
I first heard this on the first day of law school, in both Torts and Civ Pro. Some professors used it; others did not. I have yet to hear anyone use it in my first few months of practice.

But I think it's a great word.
11.18.2008 10:31am
Incidentally, this has not been a good session in terms of the Justices embarrassing themselves at oral argument. First Justice Scalia mistakenly scolds counsel for not including a copy of a statute in his brief. Then Chief Justice Roberts gets schooled.
11.18.2008 10:31am
U.Va. Grad:

I think I'll go with "soft yellow wand" from now on. ;)
11.18.2008 10:32am
I graduated in '85 and the term was widely in use in the securities transactional department of the national firm I joined. Back then, computers were not used in the firm. When two lawyers did a document comparison together to verify two copies were identical or to mark changes (often at the financial printers going over an SEC disclosure or selling document), the reading lawyer would generally use "romanette" (or its variant for an indented romanette: "romanette one in the hole"). The same terminology would often be used when going through a contract line-by-line on the phone. It struck me as useful shorthand in proofing or document review, preferable to saying the much longer "open parenthesis one little 'i' close parenthesis", etc.
11.18.2008 10:34am
The reason so many lawyers seem to know this word is that one of the BarBri lecturers for the multistate portion used the word repeatedly in his lectures. I think that it was Professor Whitebread, but I am not positive about that. That is the only time that I have heard that word used.

I image that thousands, if not tens of thousands, of lawyers have seen that BarBri lecture.
11.18.2008 10:36am
Houston Lawyer:
Count me in as a transactional lawyer who would use this word and think nothing of it.

We also refer to "nits" that we find in documents. I practiced law for a number of years before I realized that a nit is a tiny egg left on the scalp my lice. Hence the term nitpicking.
11.18.2008 10:37am
Home for Dinner (mail):
Add me to the scores of transactional practicioners who were surprised to hear this wasn't common parlance. I started at a big NYC firm 10 years ago.
11.18.2008 10:37am
Yankev (mail):
What Aultimer, GD and Zathras said.

The first time I heard it was 1998 or so, while negotiating a lengthy document over the phone. I was 20 years out of law school and had never encountered the term before, but the meaning was readily apparent from the context, especially with the document open in front of me.
11.18.2008 10:39am
Ditto Raffi. Prior to e-mail, we would have all hands conference calls to negotiate agreements and the expresseion "romanette" to refer to lower case Roman numerals was useful to clarify which part of an agreement we wanted to discuss.
11.18.2008 10:39am
DCTenor1 (www):
"Romanette" is definitely a useful new word that I will also start using while ridiculing people not in the know, but I am far more entranced by "soft yellow wand" for banana. Thanks, DSwan!
11.18.2008 10:46am
DWAnderson (www):
Ditto and Rafi.

It is commonly used by transactional lawyers (myself included). Evidently less so by others.
11.18.2008 10:50am
I agree this may be a "litigator" - "transactional attorney" divide. I have only been practicing for 2 years (as a transactional attorney), but have heard and used the word "romanette" hundreds of time.
11.18.2008 10:53am
Andy L.:
Good word.
11.18.2008 10:53am
I am a litigator who clerked for two federal courts, one on each coast, and have never heard the term before. I like it though! Previously, I used the awkward "Little 'i'" in this situation, and I think Romanette is much better.
11.18.2008 10:57am
gattsuru (mail) (www):
Speaking as a non-lawyer, that seems to be a rather unsurprising result. Colloquialisms are, by their very nature, often left with broad brushstrokes of separation between one social group and the next and one location and the next.

I do technical work, and that results in a lot of jargon that's often rather limited in spread. On the subject of hackers, the average Joe might only think of bad people who make nasty computer programs, while a more tech-savvy individual might know the distinction between white cap and black cap hackers, and an even more limited group would understand the relatively jargon "samurai" term. The unit "sagan" (billions and billions) is only really well-known by 30+ year-olds, while it's more of an eclectic one for the younger generations. Hackers and network administrators usually know what a "Chernobyl packet" exploits and does, but your average really good programmer probably doesn't know or care. "Berkeley Assured Software" is a bit easier to guess at, but if you don't know much about bad Berkeley code, it doesn't really make much sense. I'd never heard the color "CISCO green" in the south, but the northeast and midwest do like the term.

Romanette, like the above slang, works rather well. It logically follows from pre-existing words or common cultural knowledge, can be 'puzzled out' rather easily, and is shorter or more elegant than a more complete definition of the term. Generally they won't spread like wildfire, even if they are extremely useful (as opposed to modern memes), but they do tend to have a lot more lasting power.
11.18.2008 10:58am
david's lats:
Guys in my high school used to use 'romanette' at oral argument all the time, it was no big deal.
11.18.2008 10:59am
Gabor (mail):
Is anyone else amused that "romanette" is being used for uncial/minuscule/lower case, i.e. letter (and number) forms that would have been unfamiliar to actual Romans?
11.18.2008 11:02am
As many have pointed out, this is very common in transactional practice. "Little eye in the hole" is a personal favorite, although it's cumbersome; it has an almost anthropomorphic quality.

As "Houston Lawyer" points out, "nits" is also commonly used among transactional lawyers. I'm not sure I'd ever heard it used before I started practicing.

And then there's the annoying and faddish businesspeak that always seems to invade transactional practice: "leverage" was big for a while; "granular" and my all-time personal favorite "opening the kimono."
11.18.2008 11:06am
Raffi (mail) (www):
I've never heard of anyone threatening to open my or anyone else's kimonos. What does it mean? Is it like a can of worms?

My favorite is everyone wanting to "bottom that issue out".
11.18.2008 11:09am
"Friends, Romans, Romanettes, Countryman, lend me your ears;
11.18.2008 11:10am
Home for Dinner (mail):
Opening the kimono means "letting it all hang out" - usually in the context of due diligence.

My least favorite expression (and I don't think I'm at all prudish) is when negotiations are getting close to being done, people say that they're "getting down to the short strokes."

I suppose it's possible they're talking about painting artwork, but I doubt it.
11.18.2008 11:13am
Houston Lawyer:
Many of these terms were used at the financial printer. Before you had redlining programming, the younger attorneys often had to read documents verbatim to each other to ensure that they were correctly done.

My favorite editing comment is "stet", which is short for "nevermind that I just scratched out that whole paragraph and re-wrote it in the margins, just leave it alone".
11.18.2008 11:17am
CDU (mail) (www):
"Romanette" is a perfectly cromulent word.
11.18.2008 11:18am
turdsimile (mail):
I've heard lawyers say "Roman numerette."
11.18.2008 11:21am
"open kimono" means, as the term suggests, to bear it all, not hide anything. I have no idea why the phrase doesn't refer to an "open robe" or some other type of western garment that would yield the same effect.

We have a lawyer in our firm that is constantly using those types of colloquialisms that, AFAIK, are unique to the law firm environment. Some of my favorites include "get our arms around the issue," "if past is prologue," and "beavering away."

By the way, count me as another lawyer who has used the term "romanette" since I began practicing a number of years ago without giving it a second thought. It doesn't surprise me that it's not commonly used. It's really only worth using that colloquialism if you're constantly discussing drafting minutia in documents where romanettes tend to be used (such as contracts).
11.18.2008 11:22am
Richard Campbell (mail):
I had never heard "Romanette" until Erwin Chemerinsky's Barbri con-law lectures.

Great word though. Better than "little-i" by far.
11.18.2008 11:24am

Pyrrhus (mail) (www):
If subsection (ii) is vocalized as "Romanette 2", how do you say subsection (II) "Roman 2"?

Yes. Definately not "numerale Romanissimo due". FWIW - if there are "big romans" they're the section numbers, rather than subsections, using Word's outlining scheme.
11.18.2008 11:31am
Little double i:
I'm with all of the commenters above who note that "romanette" is common in transactional practice.

I always thought "getting down to the short strokes" was a swimming term (you use shorter strokes near the end of the race). Either that or an analog to "dotting the i's and crossing the t's" since both of those acts are rather short strokes of a pen.

In litigation, I was always amused by such terms as "whose ox does that gore?" and "you can't unring a bell" and "that's just letting the camel's nose under the tent" (or variations thereof).
11.18.2008 11:33am
Not being a lawyer, I must be missing the reason why "subsection one" is not used and instead "romanette one" is... One is not shorter or more concise than the other. (But there's obviously a good reason, since all the lawyers in the comments seem to immediately see a need for such a word)
11.18.2008 11:33am
I'm a litigator and have never heard the word--apparently because I'm a litigator. Of course, I've never seen the need for it because the few times I do verbalize 10(A)(II)(c)(i) or some such statute section number, I just say "one." So I've never used the silly and awkward "little i." But reading these comments it seems I'm in a very small minority.

As for "Romanette," mark me down as the first commenter to think it's a tad too cute.
11.18.2008 11:35am
Cornellian (mail):
I had a tax prof in law school use the term, but I've never heard anyone else use it before or since.
11.18.2008 11:46am
I practiced transactional law for 10+ years in the 70s and 80s and never heard the term. I've taught law ever since then and never heard the term. I think it's dumb.
11.18.2008 11:48am
von Neumann (mail):
I think I first heard it proofreading at the printer's office in the early 1980's. It may be a printer's term.
11.18.2008 11:53am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Thanks for the word though. It seems quite useful to me for discussing stylistics in some of the old documents I review.

For example, romanettes are quite common in a lot Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, such as the Lacnunga. This is one of the more disorienting aspects of reading these works when one is fairly new to the language, for example:

sloh ða þa næddran, þæt heo on viiii tofleah.

If you aren't terribly familiar with the language, you may think that viiii and tofleah rhyme, but really, its a romanette.

Thanks, once again.
11.18.2008 11:53am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Extra credit to anyone who can tell me from what device roman numerals are derived :-)
11.18.2008 11:55am
john (mail):
Shouldn't it be "romanino"?
11.18.2008 12:00pm
Garner refers to "romanettes" in section 5.18 of the 2002 edition of his Redbook Manual on Legal Style. I come from a transactional background, and have heard the word dozens of times. It wasn't terribly common, but it was widely understood by those I worked with.
11.18.2008 12:03pm
Shouldn't a Romanette over xviii be a Romaness?
11.18.2008 12:05pm
In Guys and Dolls, Nathan Detroit's fiancee has a show called "Miss Adelaide and the Hot Box Farmerettes." For some reason, "Romanette" reminds me of this.
11.18.2008 12:12pm
Wheat Free Terrier (mail):
"Guys in my high school used to use 'romanette' at oral argument all the time, it was no big deal."

Frat Stud is on Volokh now? Jesus, I better stock up on Spam and shotgun shells.
11.18.2008 12:20pm
Since we have segued to the topic of annoying law firm sayings, I nominate "It is what it is." That was very popular around the office at my prior job.
11.18.2008 12:26pm
By a quick and informal poll, none of the criminal appellate lawyers I work with have heard the term. All liked it, though. It makes a lot of sense to use instead of "little i". It would be somewhat limited in use, when you have to actually verbalize it that specifically, but very helpful when you need it.

And I forgot who asked, but the reason you wouldn't just say "subsection 1" is because the sections are frequently enumerated with both standard and Roman numerals. "Article 42.12(a)(2)(i)" and so on. So that would be section a, subsection two, romanette one. I love it. :)
11.18.2008 12:27pm
Practing transactional lawyer at a big Chicago law firm. Used the term for years and years. Assumed it was widely used.
11.18.2008 12:30pm
Wheat Free Terrier (mail):

You are totally right - that's huge here (especially in leveraged finance, for some reason).

Also, do you find that people use the word "fulsome" to mean "complete" (while it actually connotes an unpleasant excess).
11.18.2008 12:35pm
Short strokes as a dirty euphemism? Or swimming, or writing with a pen? Funny, I always assumed it was from painting.
11.18.2008 12:37pm
I agree with the other commentators that this term has been used by transactional lawyers for many years. It's really more of a proofreading term: the reason you need to say, e.g., "romanette two" is so that your listener knows that the text reads "ii" and not "2".

Incidentally, I worked as a proofreader at Dewey Ballantine in the early 70s, when I was in high school, and I don't think the term "romanette" was used back then, though the term "in the hole" (for numbers in parentheses) was used. So the term "romanette" probably arose after that date. I don't remember when I first heard it, though.
11.18.2008 12:47pm
Call Me Al:
Quick! Someone send this to the OED!

I've been a litigator for 18 years in the Midwest and never heard the term "Romanette." Personally, I would say "small Roman numberal one," "small Roman numeral two," etc.
11.18.2008 12:48pm
Dave N (mail):

How exactly was the Chief Justice "schooled"? As this discussion makes clear, the litigators (including myself) are unfamiliar with the term while you transactional types evidently orgasm over it. From what I understand of the Chief's background, he was a litigator before he was a judge--and he heard a term litigators normally do not use or know.
11.18.2008 12:51pm
Old Fogey:
Consciously old-fashioned partners at fusty white-shoe NY law firms (and the associates and staff who emulated them) used "romanette" when I started 30 years ago.

Corporate partners at Cravath (where I started) rolled their eyes and considered it a silly affectation.
11.18.2008 1:10pm
PeterWimsey (mail):
As a former appellate practitioner and as someone who now works a lot with statutes and regs, I have never heard the term. According to my state's drafting manual, the proper name for a romanette is "item", which is the term generally used in discussing statutes - if you drill down that far. But I think that romanette is pretty useful as a generic term.
11.18.2008 1:11pm
Thanks to Professor Volokh, it looks like Romanette crossed the moat from transactional practice to litigation practice. So much for anthropological purity and leaving native cultures alone.

And to join the ranks, I'm a junior transactional associate who assumed it was common parlance. We use it all the time.
11.18.2008 1:16pm
Yankev (mail):

Not being a lawyer, I must be missing the reason why "subsection one" is not used and instead "romanette one" is... One is not shorter or more concise than the other.

Subsection one can be written 1, i, I, all of them with or without parentheses or periods. And when you get into subsections of subsections ad infinitum and ad nauseam, a simple "subsection one" does not give you enough information.

I don't usually say Romanette, prefering "small Roman one" or "little eye," and, if they are parenthesised, adding "in the hole". Nor do I ask my server to drag my burger through the garden, even when I want lettuce and tomato with it.
11.18.2008 1:18pm
Tom952 (mail):

I always thought "getting down to the short strokes" was a swimming term (you use shorter strokes near the end of the race). Either that or an analog to "dotting the i's and crossing the t's" since both of those acts are rather short strokes of a pen.

Well, there is another meaning to that "short strokes" phrase. You might want to avoid it.
11.18.2008 1:28pm
Alex B:
Business type from the West Coast who had never heard it. Sounds like it may be regional as well as transactional.
11.18.2008 1:38pm
Subby Palourescoffetelle:
"getting down to the short strokes" is hardly a vulgar phrase. It comes from golf - long shots off the tee, shorter strokes as you near the hole.
11.18.2008 1:41pm
"Fulsome" used to mean complete is one of my biggest pet peeves. Worked for a partner once who used it all the time and I would have to suppress my urge to yell, "That's not what it means! Stop using it that way!" Killed me. Correcting partners on their grammar unless it is in a brief where you can correct it quietly is a career limiting move.
11.18.2008 1:47pm
Allan (mail):
It's a code word.
11.18.2008 1:56pm
Subby Palourescoffetelle:
word meanings change over time. fulsome in its modern usage has lost the pejorative (unpleasant excess) meaning.
11.18.2008 2:09pm
ChrisIowa (mail):
I can't decide if "Romanette" sounds more like a high school girl's basketball team (the Romanettes) or a light salad dressing.
11.18.2008 2:10pm
Crunchy Frog:
Perhaps I've just read to many lurid fantasy novels, but I've always seen "fulsome" used synonymously with "buxom" - there might be excess, but it is certainly not unpleasant.
11.18.2008 2:12pm
I agree, Subby, on changes over time. But fulsome hasn't lost that meaning enough for me. It is still its primary definition. To each his own. If you use it the other way and you see someone with steam coming out of her ears like in a cartoon, that's probably me and you should wave hello.
11.18.2008 2:17pm
Virginian: "It is what it is" annoys on a broad scale.

My favorite expression recently is "kicking it down the can," per Rahm Emanuel. I hope that catches on. My previous favorite was "It's not rocket surgery."

re: thread topic--I had never heard "romanette," but I will start using it forthwith in collective bargaining negotiations. (I have only a few year's experience at the table so maybe I'm just ignorant, but none of the atty's on the other side have used it either, in my hearing at least. We've all been referring to "little eyes.")
11.18.2008 2:22pm

And I forgot who asked, but the reason you wouldn't just say "subsection 1" is because the sections are frequently enumerated with both standard and Roman numerals. "Article 42.12(a)(2)(i)" and so on. So that would be section a, subsection two, romanette one. I love it. :)

As a litigator, I would just say "Article forty-two point twelve A two, subsection one."

Subsection is just used for the lowest level you intend to go in a particular context. If you use "subsection" too early, just start using "sub-subsection."

I've never heard "romanette" in SoCal litigation practice. In fact, I think people would look at me like I was wearing a pink feather boa if I ever used that term in court.
11.18.2008 2:26pm
Mak (mail):
I am a litigator, and have never heard or read the term "romanette." I have always referred to these numerals as "in the hole," or "little [number] in the hole" and first heard that term in law school. I don't get any sense that "in the hole" is a very widely accepted usage, but I have heard it with greater frequency than "romanette" (in fact infinitly greater, as I have never heard that word used at all).
11.18.2008 2:49pm
The River Temoc (mail):
I knew the term "romanette" when I was a first-year transactional associate in Silicon Valley. I probably knew it before then, but I'm not sure.
11.18.2008 2:50pm
Anderson (mail):
What other silly terms do transactional "lawyers" use? ;)

I have always referred to these numerals as "in the hole,"

Please, please, please don't do that in front of the SCOTUS.

You might as well refer to "i" as "I with a hat on top," except that doesn't sound dirty like "in the hole."
11.18.2008 3:01pm
I think "fulsome" is misused as "complete" or "full" because folks missed some self-deprecation when they first heard it used. "We'll have more fulsome reps in the next draft" is intended to mean "a bunch of arguably silly, but quite typical reps" but could be heard as meaning "full".

"In the hole" is a new one for me - I never had to pull printer's office proofing duty though.
11.18.2008 3:03pm
Subby: I also had heard that golf was the origin of "down to the short strokes." I wonder, though. I suspect that whatever the exact origin of the phrase, it had a double entendre almost from the start. One dictionary of slang says it originated in the 1990s and has a sexual meaning. But Google Books reveals uses going back to the 1950s, often in sources like technical books and Congressional testimony. One of the earliest sources that you can actually see the context of in Google Books is a 1963 play by David Rogers called "It Happens Every Summer":

PUDGY: Evenin', ma'am. Would you excuse us? We jus' gettin' down to the short strokes.
MRs. WOODRUFF: Oh, of course. Short strokes? Is that golf? Or rowing? Or worse?
11.18.2008 3:13pm
Colin Fraizer (mail):
I plan to start using "soft, yellow wand" frequently. Thanks!
11.18.2008 3:18pm
Bar-or (mail):

VERY common to use that term if you do tax.
11.18.2008 3:18pm
Very entertaining discussion. Is it possible that "romanette" actually belongs to some other discipline, e.g., printers from the time they set type by hand, or statisticans or mathmaticians who use several systems of scientific notation, but was so handy in describing a circumstance found in law that it's primary use shifted to the current lawyers?
11.18.2008 3:21pm
holdfast (mail):
You would almost never write it down, because you would either refer to "Section 2(a)(ii)" or "clause (ii)", but while sitting around a conference table negotiating a credit agreement, you would say "ok, please look at the changes in romanette three". If you just said "section three" it could be section 3, section III or section (iii) - can't tell the difference from hearing it.

It is definitely a term used when drafting, marking up or negotiating a document in collaboration with others - but there's no real reason to write it down. I guess this separates the working lawyers from the academics.
11.18.2008 3:21pm
Since the topic has sequed again into dirty phrases that have entered the general lexicon, I nominate "the money shot" as the most disturbing. I don't remember the context, but I almost fell over when I saw Katie Couric (in her perky Today days) use that term (obviously not with the porn connotation).
11.18.2008 3:23pm
And thus, on Tuesday, 18-NOV-2008, "romanette" officially became part of common legal parlance. Someday someone will blog about this blog when they uncover precisely when "everyone" started using the term.
11.18.2008 3:33pm
David Warner:
To be sure, this is yet another instance of Justice Roberts' ignorance. But of course that doesn't imply that he's stupid, just intellectually incurious.
11.18.2008 3:39pm
I've heard and used romanette many times over the years in contract drafting and negotiation. I have also heard "2 in the hole," but I think that term may be used more broadly to refer to any subsections that are indented from the left margin, whether they are sequenced with small roman numerals or with arabic numbers. The reason to distinguish "2 in the hole" is that you may have duplicate paragraph 2s, as in

2. "Event of default" means any of the following:

(a) in the case of the Tenant,

(1) failure to pay...

(2) failure to perform any other
provision hereof, which failure
continues for 30 days after...
11.18.2008 3:43pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"To be sure, this is yet another instance of Justice Roberts' ignorance. But of course that doesn't imply that he's stupid, just intellectually incurious."

Hmm. This is a bit gratuitous. He's surely not ignorant, and his desire to learn this bit of legal slang evident from the transcript shows him to be curious. I think the statement that Judge Roberts' judicial philosophy is formalistic, predictable almost entirely coideologically with the party of the president that appointed him and intellectually uninteresting might be defensible, but there's no need to basely insult the man.
11.18.2008 3:47pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Pardon, make that Chief Justice Roberts.
11.18.2008 3:48pm
Virginian: Since the topic has sequed again into dirty phrases that have entered the general lexicon, I nominate "the money shot" as the most disturbing. I don't remember the context, but I almost fell over when I saw Katie Couric (in her perky Today days) use that term (obviously not with the porn connotation).

I can turn that one back to golf, too. Arnold Palmer's Golf Book, 1961:

"In low-scoring, high-money tournaments, your drive becomes the money shot."

11.18.2008 3:51pm
ASlyJD (mail):
Thales, I believe David's comment was designed to be a restatement of a common criticism of Sarah Palin.
11.18.2008 3:53pm
I never heard the word in law school, bar bri, or in thirteen years of practice.

I suspect that it may be a bit more subtle than simply transactional practice. It may be transactional practice combined with dictation. This explains why dictationaries don't have it, as it would be a confined technical useage that wouldn't have emerged until dictation became common -- a really old word would be in the OED.

Almost all of the lawyers older than me spent some of their practice, particularly if they practiced at medium or larger firms, dictating, although many similar in age have since abandoned the practice.

Few lawyers younger than me have done much dictation, although some firms abandoned the practice later than others.

I also suspect that it may be a regional useage, confined to the Northeast coastal states and perhaps also San Francisco, but probably not as far South as Washington D.C. I suspect that it coincides rather closely with use of the three piece suit.
11.18.2008 3:53pm
Craig Oren (mail):
Under Congressional usage, (i) and (ii) are clauses, and the S-G would do well to refer to them as such. The hierarchy in Congress is

section number (202)


paragraph (1)

subparagraph (A)

clause (i)

Subclause I

At least that's the way I was taught on Capitol Hill.
11.18.2008 4:23pm

It may be transactional practice combined with dictation.

That may be the origin, but I've never dictated anything.

I also suspect that it may be a regional useage, confined to the Northeast coastal states and perhaps also San Francisco, but probably not as far South as Washington D.C.

It's common in D.C. and non-coastal Philly in my experience. Silicon Valley, too.
11.18.2008 5:15pm
UCLAW 08 grad:
My tax law professor at UCLA, Steve Bank, used "romanette" all the time during lectures but never wrote it down. Up until now I assumed it was just spelled "romanet"

Interesting that previous commenter Richard Campbell first heard "Romanette" in Chemerinsky's BARBRI lecture - When I attended Chemerinsky's BARBRI lecture this summer, I was really confused because he kept saying "little one" and "little two" instead of "Romanette one" or "Romanette two."

I kept thinking he was using some diminutive cutesy term (aided by his hilarious intonation), not referring to a bullet point from memory.

Maybe Chemerinsky stopped using "Romanette" because people kept asking him what it meant?
11.18.2008 5:24pm
Bob The Lawyer:
Speaking as a partner in the London office of a large international firm, we use the word "romanette" all the time. Make of this what you will.
11.18.2008 5:30pm
Kevin Shaum (mail) (www):
In computing professional circles, this kind of notation has fallen out of favor; we just use digits. So it's commonplace to refer to "section one dot three dot three dot two" of a reference document.

I suppose there's some inference you can draw there about lawyers preferring a baroque approach, and technologists preferring an orthogonal system that can be extended indefinitely (section, anyone?), but that would just be trolling, wouldn't it?
11.18.2008 5:36pm
David Warner:

"Thales, I believe David's comment was designed to be a restatement of a common criticism of Sarah Palin."

And I believe he (mis)took it in that spirit. At least, for his own sake, I hope he did...
11.18.2008 5:39pm
Another guest:
Kenneth Adams explains this use of "romanette" in his book Legal Usage in Drafting Corporate Agreements (2001), page 58.

I picked it up in my first six months as an ERISA attorney, where one of my usual jobs was to suggest revisions to benefit plan documents and discuss them with supervising attorneys. The senior attorneys said they learned it on the job.
11.18.2008 5:41pm

"Sucks" is now in widespread usage; I suspect it would be used far less if people reflected on what it refers to.
11.18.2008 5:47pm
Dave N (mail):
"Sucks" is now in widespread usage; I suspect it would be used far less if people reflected on what it refers to.
A vacuum cleaner?

As in, "It sucks like an Electrolux."
11.18.2008 6:01pm
Bob_R (mail):
I think it is a very cool example of an isolated, almost completely oral tradition among a literate group. I asked a group of mathematicians if they could think of an analogue in our discipline. We could not come up with one that was satisfactory
11.18.2008 6:08pm

Hmmm. Nope, can't find a golf origin for that one. :)
11.18.2008 6:14pm
In addition to opening the kimono, cliches that are particular to the legal profession include:

(1) "Two bites of the apple" (Remember, only one free bite in most states)
(2) "Take the laboring oar" (You do all the work, I put my name on the caption)
(3) "Snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" (Oh so witty!)
(4) "Fishing expedition" (Why not a trip instead?)
11.18.2008 6:19pm
I asked a group of mathematicians if they could think of an analogue in our discipline. We could not come up with one that was satisfactory

Does the fish know it is wet?

I bet you fellows use words like "limit" in some rather idiosyncratic ways.
11.18.2008 6:29pm
Thales (mail) (www):
""Thales, I believe David's comment was designed to be a restatement of a common criticism of Sarah Palin."

And I believe he (mis)took it in that spirit. At least, for his own sake, I hope he did..."

I did indeed mistake your meaning, though I would generally agree with that common criticism of Sarah Palin, on what I consider a fair evaluation of her public statements and record. I do hold a much higher opinion of Chief Justice Roberts.
11.18.2008 6:57pm
I think that it is very common in biglaw transactional practice. I have heard this word and used it without a second thought. I am a junior associate with a general corporate practice in a AMLaw 100 firm (and have never worked by dictation as some have suggested) for what that's worth.
11.18.2008 7:23pm
Abovethelaw should have interviewed Saharsky by now and asked if she picked it up while at O'Melveny's transactional practice or from elsewhere. They ask frivolous questions very well. Get your rolodex out, Lat.
11.18.2008 8:18pm
David Krinsky (mail):
Another data point in support of the theory that it's a split between litigators and transactional attorneys: I'm a litigator and had never heard it before learning of this Supreme Court colloquy. But then I was on the phone with a transactional real estate lawyer yesterday, and she used it casually. (She would have graduated from law school--I don't know which one--in the early 1980s, and she practices near Baltimore.)
11.18.2008 8:26pm
Romanit picking neologism, sounds like.
11.18.2008 8:50pm
SFBurke (mail):
In my experience, romanette is very commonly used in corporate transactional practice in Northern California and I can only once remember anyone from anywhere being unfamiliar with it in over 15 years of practice. It is quite useful in discussing a sentence with multiple clauses in it, each of which is identified by a romanette (e.g. "This contract will expire on the earliest to occur of (i)..., (ii).... or (iii)"). Subsection doesn't work because these are subsections, they are parts of the sentence.

As for "opening the kimono", I have always liked that phrase. It usually occurs at some point in the transaction where the parties agree to stop holding back their most confidential information. I have always assumed that it alluded to the idea that when a Samuri opens his kimono, the other person can see whether he has any weapons hidden underneath. A review of the Shogun mini-series might provide further insight.

"it is what is" is what it is.
11.18.2008 9:33pm