Michael Sean Quinn, Ph.D, J.D., Etc.
2630 Exposition Blvd  #115
Austin, Texas 78703
(o) 512-296-2594
(c) 512-656-0503

A while back I wrote a blog (or maybe two) about irritable locutions lawyers should avoid using, especially in motions, briefs, and such. Consider “flagrant.” Not all errors or mistakes are this bad.  Or in social life. Consider “amazing.” 

Yesterday, I wrote something somewhere about the crass sounding saying “You’ve got it,” after someone has asked for something (ordered something in a bar or restaurant).  Obviously, the person asking/ordering does not have it, otherwise he would not be asking for it.

Now consider “own.”  Ownership implies property interest.  Recently, within the last few weeks, I have heard these phrases” 

  • Who owns the law? 
  • Who owns the Internet?
  • Who owns the future” 
  • “Own your future like you on all other aspects of you life. [If you don’t do this, you will end up asking the question no one wants to ask, ‘How did I end up here.’]”

Of course this is just a quick list from the last day or two.  The instances of misuse of much, much broader. The word “own” means all sorts of things.  I suspect it means something like “control(s)” or “strongly controls” or something like that. Parties to contracts do not own anything, although the contract may provide them with an ownership interest in something else.

The use of this word “own” creates all sorts of confusions.  Obviously, one cannot own ones children; to try to do this may lead to being charged with a crime involving sex trafficking. One cannot own another person any more, at least  in civilized countries–at least not legally, and
ownership is an essentially legal idea.
Of course, one can own “things” the Internet. Networks probably fall into this category.  There all sorts of traditionally conceived “intellectual property” to be found there. One has rights to them, and others have duties not to (something like trespass on them).

Lawyers should avoid jarring, confusing, questionable, even odd (unless attractive) in legal arguments and discourse. The multiple biz-class perversions of the term “own” are to be avoided.  If language is to be avoided in legal discourse of any sort, a lawyer needs to be careful about using it in other contexts.  The exception is the use of language which is known in advance not to used, like “That X is completely* fucked up. Who ever wrote it is a total  ______”  Using that sort of locution is perfectly* OK unless there is some other source of objection, the corruption of great grandmothers, for example. 

*Notice: I have avoided using the terms “completely” and “totally” in the same sentence.  Unlike the “Ugh!” and the “Yuck! with which I began.

The last phrase is really repulsive, though for a different reason.  People don’t own aspects of their lives; the idea is vacuous. People do own their investments–or, at least may for a time–but they do not own success of purchasing the right ones.  They may just have it–lucky them–or they may work to obtain it and succeed.  Those I actually envy.  I love mental success and follow-through. There is no ownership here.

More significantly, ownership does not imply success and non-ownership imply failure. Also smirking at the end-of life question posed is nothing more than pissing on creativity, adventuresome and risk.  The chances I would use that stockbroker or his disciples as mine as zero, the chances I would recommend anyone that else does are even less, as area of eternal life to which some people have happily wished I would go with dispatch. (Charles Schwab, who has named a stock brokerage chain after himself, is the worse public offender.  See his “commercial” on PBS, 2014.)