Montreal, PQ (Reuters) - Sarah Medhurst (nee Black) shocked journalists and legal scholars at a press conference held at the Black family estate Monday when she revealed that Black's Law Dictionary, a highly regarded legal reference text, was originally written as a joke by her eccentric great grandfather Henry Campbell Black.
Medhurst appeared unapologetic, suggesting that the Black family had never tried very hard to keep it a secret. "Have any of you actually taken the time to read it?” she asked, flipping open the renowned text.& nbsp; “Look at page 840 for instance. 'John-a-Nokes'? Or how about page 347? 'Correality – the quality or state of being correal." She then cast a challenging look around the room.
Medhurst admitted that the entire Black family has participated in the century-long ruse, working together to generate content for the ever-expanding text. She credits her Uncle Bertrand with developing one of their most successful filler techniques: "We created more than 30 new entries just by using the word 'actual'. Actual agency - see agency. Actual allegiance - see allegiance. Actual authority - see authority. And on and on - you get the idea."
Medhurst admits that the family started to get lazy in later editions, at times resorting to stealing terms from other dictionaries. "I remember one time my brother pulled 'Le Roi' (literally: "the king") right out of his French-English dictionary to meet the deadline for the 5th edition while on a three-week ski trip in the French Alps." She claims the ploy has been used sparingly, however, and that the family put a stop to the practice when her brother started bringing the Official Scrabble Dictionary to editorial meetings.
Henry Campbell Black had never intended - or even imagined - that his dictionary would become the authoritative source for legal terminology. "My great granddad had actually written the text for an upcoming firm skit night", Medhurst explains. "It was his way of showing how convoluted and, well, pompous the legal profession had become." The dictionary became an instant hit, however, and Henry Black's comedic intentions went unnoticed. When the money started to roll in, Black elected to pursue a highly lucrative career in legal publishing instead of becoming a marginally talented prop comic.
When asked why the family is revealing the fake after all this time, Medhurst stated that they had grown tired of living a lie, and were genuinely concerned that the universally accepted legal lexicon "is actually just a bunch of made-up gibberish." The family is asking that lawyers and students alike immediately dispose of any editions of Black's Law Dictionary into the nearest trash receptacle or recycle bin.
West Group, the current publisher of Black's, could not be reached for comment.