23 May 2019

The meaning of life - or for that matter, strangling to death


Amber Melville-Brown
Partner | US

“What do you mean?” We pose this question to our friends and colleagues on a regular basis. After all, the nuances of the English language, individual turns of phrase and geographical idioms are set to confuse us. And a lack of education of “The Queen’s English” means at best, regular misunderstandings.

Understanding what we mean when we say something is important as we seek to navigate our daily lives. It is important also, as we seek to navigate the choppy seas of legal proceedings.

Libel cases are not frequent visitors to the Supreme Court. So the recent decision in Stocker v Stocker was a significant event. It was also significant for the clarification given by our highest court, as to how words should be defined.

The court has made clear that the ordinary reasonable reader, he who hypothetically determines a defamatory meaning, is no longer “the man on the Clapham omnibus”. Rather, it seems, he travels in an Uber, smart phone in hand, tweeting in colloquial English and texting in emojis.

Amber Melville-Brown wrote this article about the subject, first published in The Brief, for The Times. Click here to view.

Category: Article