101 Words I Don't Use
by Paul Niquette
Copyright 1996 Resource Books All rights reserved.

lawyer n.  One whose profession is to give legal advice and assistance to clients and represent them in court.

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

Thus spoke Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill in a speech before the House of Commons, August 20, 1940.  He was extolling the heroic pilots of a particular fighter plane, of which in the ensuing years, I would draw countless pictures and even build models.  All in secret.

My mother forbade me to say "Spitfire."

All her life, she held prim opinions on the English Language, which included a prohibition against the word "spit."  Once, I got thumped for emulating an adult who told me I was the "spittin' image" of my father.  My mother would doubtless have preferred to thump the adult, either for making the observation or for expressing it in my presence.  She probably embraced the unverified theory that "spitting image" came from the phrase "the very spit of," an exact likeness, as if the image were "spat out."  An unhygienic thought, to be sure.  In retrospect, I find myself in sympathy with her (see expectorate).
A modern dictionary of southern slang gives the derivation of "spittin' image" as a corruption of "spirit and image."  Mom would have liked that.
"Only a bad guy needs a lawyer," my mother told me.  "Legitimate people use attorneys."  She was not completely wrong.  Whereas "lawyer" is often used interchangeably with "attorney," the former is the most comprehensive term for one who gives legal advice and pleads cases in court.  "Attorney" has a narrower sense, referring to a legal agent in the transaction of business.  An attorney doesn't even have to be a lawyer, according to the dictionary. Oh, right.

Despite all the lawyer jokes going around, for me the word curiously resists being uttered, lingering on my tongue with my diaphragm paralyzed, a stuttered testimony to a caring mother's influence.  I almost have to -- well, spit it out.

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