“The exception that proves the rule”
Meanwhile, I have just had to explain to a colleague why “The exception that proves the rule” is on the Banned List, but that it is not as stupid a saying as it seems.
In fact I was saved by my sub-editor, a job that was more important on this book than on some others, because of the subject material, from making an elementary error. She explained that it is the first part of an old legal maxim, which goes on: “… in cases not excepted”. As I say in the book, after she edited it:
It means that if a sign says “No entry on Thursdays” (the exception) it may be assumed that entry is permitted on other days (the rule).
Thus the setting out of the exception “proves” (in the old Scottish sense of the word) the rule. Neat, eh? Only no one ever uses it in that sense, they just use it as a nonsense way of brushing aside evidence that does not fit.
Who would not want to buy a book full of stuff like that?
Finally, if you want to nominate your suggestions for inclusion on the List, which the Committee will continue to compile, make them in the comments below or follow me on Twitter and use the hashtag #bannedlist.Tagged in: banned list
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