Sunday, March 20, 2011

In Force, Enforced

Jim from Northport asked about two versions of the same sign that appear here and there in Leelanau County: “Load Limits Enforced” and “Load Limits in Force.” He found the first version understandable and the second one puzzling. It may be that he thought the second version was a misspelling of the first.

Both are correct. Enforced is a participial form meaning “given legal force.” It signifies that there is a law compelling a truck driver not to exceed a given weight.

“In force” is a prepositional phrase. As it relates to law, it means operative or binding—in other words, load limits are in effect. It took on that meaning towards the end of the 15th century.

In both cases, what started out as a military term meaning to make a fort even stronger turned into a legal constraint. I have no idea why two versions of the same notice might be needed. At a guess, it was the whim of two different road commissioners.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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