Welcome to FuzzyLaw
FuzzyLaw is a resource for interpreters, legal professionals and others who encounter or study the law.
FuzzyLaw has gathered explanations of legal terms from members of the public in order to get a sense of what the ‘person on the street’ has in mind when they think of a legal term. By making lay-people’s explanations of legal terms available to interpreters, police and other legal professionals, we hope to stimulate debate and learning about word meaning, public understanding of law and the nature of explanation.
The explanations gathered in FuzzyLaw are unusual in that they are provided by members of the public. These people, all aged over 18, regard themselves as ‘native speakers’, ‘first language speakers’ and ‘mother tongue’ speakers of English and have lived in England and/or Wales for 10 years or more. We might therefore expect that they will understand English legal terminology as well as any member of the public might. No one who has contributed has ever worked in the criminal law system or as an interpreter or translator. They therefore bring no special expertise to the task of explanation, beyond whatever their daily life has provided.
We have gathered explanations for 37 words in total. You can see a sample of these explanations on FuzzyLaw. The sample of explanations is regularly updated. You can also read responses to the terms and the explanations from mainly interpreters, police officers and academics. You are warmly invited to add your own responses and join in the discussion of each and every word. Check back regularly to see how discussions develop and consider bookmarking the site for future visits. The site also contains commentaries on interesting phenomena which have emerged through the site. You can respond to the commentaries too on that page, contributing to the developing research project.
FuzzyLaw is based in Cardiff, Wales, and explores English words as they are used in the criminal legal system of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The examples and discussions that you will find here are, however, also relevant to languages other than English, legal jurisdictions around the world, and legal settings beyond only criminal law. This is because these examples and discussions concern meaning and explore words in a variety of contexts of use in the law.
FuzzyLaw is a collaboration between the Centre for Language and Communication, within Cardiff University’s School of English, Communication and Philosophy and LEARN at Cardiff. The project is affiliated with Cardiff Language and Law. FuzzyLaw has been generously supported by the Applying Linguistics Fund of the British Association for Applied Linguistics.