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A.Word.A.Day--Philadelphia lawyer

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Philadelphia lawyer (fil-uh-DEL-fee-uh LOI-yuhr) noun

A shrewd lawyer, one who is adept at exploiting legal technicalities.

[From Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.]

"Then Willie Lee nailed me those many years ago. With a woman's way she said to Bob, `Bob, this man's been here three days and he's complimented my cooking more than you have in thirty years of marriage.'
"A death pall lay over the burdened table. Willie Lee had pierced both of us with two horns of the same bull. I gulped and floundered -- helpless to assist my wounded friend -- but Bob never missed a spoonful as he said, `I've been too busy eatin'.'
"No Philadelphia lawyer ever saved (himself and) the condemned with so few words, so coolly and ably stated. I was in Bob's debt and learned that moment to keep my compliments to a peck and not a bushel."
Bill Tarrant, Hunting the Russian Boar, Field & Stream (Los Angeles), Apr 1998.

The term Philadelphia lawyer can have either positive or negative connotations depending on whether it's being applied to a lawyer who's for or against us. The term can also be applied to a person, not necessarily a lawyer, who is good at manipulating and obfuscating matters. The most famous Philadelphia lawyer was Andrew Hamilton who defended John Peter Zenger, printer and publisher of the New York Weekly Journal, in a 1735 libel case that set the precedent for free speech in America. Here are the fascinating details of this landmark case.

Discover more words derived from place names in AWAD this week.



No one should drive a hard bargain with an artist. -Ludwig Van Beethoven, composer (1770-1827)

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