Courts Turn to Urban Dictionary to Define Slang Terms, But No Wukkas! This is Totally Jawsome!
If you have to define a slang term in a court of law, we don't see any reason not to use Urban Dictionary, and neither do courts of law.
Kids today and their crazy nonsense words! How are lawyers and judges supposed to keep up with what the cool cats in court are saying? It turns out they’ve been turning to Urban Dictionary to define modern slang terms they don’t understand. That’s right! Urban Dictionary — the filthy Wikipedia of modern language — is being used as an official court reference.
Last month the site was used in a financial restitution case because someone in the case referred to themselves and a companion as “jack boys.” The court used Urban Dictionary to define the term “jack” as meaning “to steal” and then rejected the man’s claim. Urban Dictionary has 114 listed entries to define “jack.” Some of them define it as stealing, while many others just talk about how great guys named Jack are.
“Jack boy” only has one entry. It was submitted back in 2004 and reads (typos and all):
1)a person with many trades or abilities.
2)a person who is a thief,comitts robberies.
1)I can fade you up,tatt you up and fix ur car, man i’m a jack boy.
2)if we’re gonna robb them, let me gather up some jack boys.
One case used the site to define the verb “to nut” in a sexual harassment case, and other cases used Urban Dictionary to define words like iron, dap, and grenade. The need for courts to use resources like Urban Dictionary is that non-urban dictionaries take too long to incorporate new words, but also because slang terms have different meanings to different people. They can be hard to define in a concrete way.
That’s where a crowdsourced site like Urban Dictionary can be an asset. Slang terms are ever-changing, and so is Urban Dictionary itself. Since it’s hard to pin down a definition of a slang term, the best way to get a sense of what it means is to see what a lot of other people think it means. Urban Dictionary does just that.
Plus it makes reading court documents hilarious. Someone please make a Judge Judy spin-off where she just reads Urban Dictionary definitions into the camera for half an hour.
(The New York Times via The Verge, image via Urban Dictionary on Facebook)
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