Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Word “Shithole.”

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | January 13, 2018

No. 1,393

This one was too good to pass up.

As explained by retired law professor Ann Althouse in her blog post, this word has a long and storied history.  I used to think it was an epithet not suitable for polite conversation.  But not anymore.  After all, it has been used in literature since the 17th Century, at least.  I must admit, no other word in the lexicon captures the meaning so vividly. Nevertheless, be careful.  There are limits. Reminds me of a story from my days as a young (and very proper) lawyer in a straight laced law firm.

Years ago, before the age when lawyers began to type their own correspondence on personal computers, I had an opposing counsel who was in-house at a government agency.  He dictated a lot of long florid letters that were typed by a secretary.  She told her co-workers that he never proofread anything.  To illustrate the point, she typed an extra word on the end of a particularly long letter to me.  The last sentence read something like this: “Pleased be advised that we will be taking appropriate action, asshole.”

He signed the letter, of course, without reading it. The plan was to show it around his office so everybody could have big laugh. Unfortunately, the letter and several cc’s went out in the mail.  The secretary, who called me to apologize, stated that she was a single mother and was being fired. Words can have consequences.

Here’s the post from Althouse.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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