I’m not going to die in a ditch about it

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The pragmatist’s lament, the main reason there is so much flannel in legal contracts, and the intellectual stance from which grows the anal paradox.

For you are busy, you need to get out the door because it’s your anniversary, or you are keen to enjoy the work-life balance your employer keeps going on about, and the last round of comments include asking you to remove the bold from a full stop,[1] the single insertion: “unless the parties otherwise agree”, or the careful clarification that such prior notice is “not to have retrospective effect”.

You know this is pedantic, oafish, legally ignorant, but — like celery — while it brings no joy, it does no harm. An adversarial conversation with this fellow is likely to end in harsh words or even violence, so you demur: “I’m not going to die in a ditch about it”, you say, by which you mean “I will try to control my animal impulses so you don’t wind up dead in a ditch”, and in that clumsy utterance goes, but only because you think that’s the last you’ll ever hear of it.

Fat chance. In the morning, a new mark-up will arrive, with a plague of “unless the parties agree otherwises” settling like locusts on your elegant prose, for the avoidance of doubt.

There is an inverse relationship between one’s adjacency to a ditch — ditch proximity — and one’s preparedness to die in it — ditch tolerance.

See also


  1. True Story. This is known as the Biggs constant, and has mathematical and theoretical significance for legal mark-up