Language is the source of misunderstandings. – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
My accountant was quite pleased – I know this because he was smiling. I was pleased because my year-end balances were significantly better that last years – I knew this because of the numbers at the bottom of the page were (a) different and, more importantly (b) this year’s was bigger than last year’s. There was only one problem, my accountant had just concluded 5 minutes of conversation with a question and I had no idea what on earth he had said. My accountant took a few more stabs at getting the answer from me, but unfortunately, my accountant-english to lawyer-english translator was simply not up to the task and I was forced to ask him to explain what he was asking about in simple terms – like he would explain things to his 5 year old.
I walked away from my brief encounter with a new appreciation for the Cants one encounters and the difficulties two people can have when communicating in what is supposed to be simple English.
As a lawyer I’ve invested a significant amount of resources into learning to think and speak like an attorney – I’ve learn the Cant of my profession and find a certain joy in the way the latin phrases and polysyllabic nonsense words come tripping to the tongue – and have spent many hours boring my parrot in the hopes of getting her to repeat res ipsa loquitur, aequitas sequitur legem, or perhaps Pro hac vice, but I digress. The thing is, Cant is a double edged sword – between lawyers it is a powerful tool allowing for a form of precise communication and a clarity of meaning – between lawyers and non-lawyers it can lead to blank stares.
So, I walked away from my meeting with my accountant with two things, good news about my practice and a reminder to leave Cant out of my conversations.