Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Crystal Frost commented on a ruling given by a local judge in a recent hearing, noting that he displayed an admirable vocabulary. One of the words that she found impressive was nugatory. This was the context: “Important to the analysis of the remedial portion of Section 144 is the rule that whenever possible, a phrase should not be interpreted so as to conflict with or deny effect to any other portion of the statute. In other words, a construction should be avoided that renders any part of the statute surplusage or nugatory.”

Nugatory means trifling and inconsequential. It can also mean futile or worthless, which is the case above. It tracks back to a Latin root that meant trifle.

Two other words came up in the conversation because of their similarity: nougat and nugget. Nougat is defined as a confection of nuts or fruit pieces in a sugar paste. It was derived from a Latin word that meant a nut. Nugget is a metallic lump found ready-made in the earth. The word may have come from a dialectical word used in counties in southwest England, a word that meant a lump.

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