A few years ago a young Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in some remote and far away venue was leafing through an English Dictionary slated to be awarded to a student who demonstrated a certain prowess in the language, an talent obviously lacking in this writer. The volunteer was shocked, shocked, I say! (we know the phrase is over used, but we like it, liked the movie, and it is particularly appropriate for Casablanca, a city composed of beautiful esplanades and not-so-beautiful bidonvilles, was the volunteer’s place of work. . . . Sorry, we digress). In any event, the volunteer was stunned to find extensive examples of English slang and vulgarities contained in the respectable tome. Reading on, the volunteer looked up the word “f—k” and found the appropriate definition therein (We couldn’t help using legalese, and in today’s legal environment, the use of the word f—k is heard ever more frequently when discussing opposing counsel and opposing counsel’s antics, thereby itself becoming legalese, but we digress again). Before proceeding any further with this amusing little story, let us explain that though our goal is to offend one and all, we are timorous when it comes to publishing the entire vulgarity, thus the dashes. We are not, after all, of that political party which is offensive in all things and in all ways. Can you say Etch-a-Sketch? (Sorry, we digress again.)
We are now to the amusing bit in the story. Following the definition of the word “f—k” were several examples, one of which was labeled “American usage with no meaning but for emphasis” and read (without the dashes) “I got my f—king foot f—king caught in the f—king chair, didn’t I?” Mind you, we agree that up until the comma, the editors of the dictionary are correct. Americans tend to extensively adjectivize (what a lovely Bushism!) their statements with “f—k.” But a question tag? Let us ask you, our hesitant readers, when have you used a question tag, or, perhaps, where would its use be appropriate? Once again, trust us, for we have the answer – 42. (No, no sorry, we digress).
Question tag use is particularly appropriate in the legal world. Think about a cross examination before a judge and jury: “Mr. Anderson, you hoodwinked Trinity, stole her trust, and abused her physically, didn’t you? Ladies and gentlemen of the jury – he is a scumbag, isn’t he? Your Honor will sentence him to 50 lashes, won’t you?” Really great usage – emphasis, confirmation, and kissing up. We must caution you to be careful in all other circumstances. To your associate, it’s not good to say, “I slept with your spouse, didn’t I?” Or, “We committed malpractice, didn’t we?” Or, “You are being indicted, aren’t you?” Nothing good comes from those comments – at least for you. Some other lawyer, of course, will benefit. That is the great thing about question tags. They suggest some issue or the need for confirmation, and you all know when someone does something wrong or needs something confirmed, lawyers benefit financially. Legal practice equals getting paid and/or rich from other peoples’ errors, need, or greed. Think on it. The next time you hear a question tag, look into it further to discover the underlying issue, and you just might find a rainbow. You are suing us, aren’t you?