This is not to say that I plan to rush out and buy it. My own quite limited need for legal lexicography is still satisfied by the very old (4th edition!) Black's that sits on the shelf above my desk. Still, it is good to see the mind of Black’s editor Bryan Garner at work as he explains the principles that have been guiding him over years of work on the evolution of this reference text.
Challenged, I looked up “bough of a tree,” in my old Black’s Fourth. I learned (or was reminded, I think I had heard it before) that the bough of a tree in feudal law was a symbol, it “gave seisin of land.” In other words, a feudal lord would hand a tenant who owed him fealty a bough of a tree taken from a plot of land, as a way of saying, “this plot is now yours to possess and work [so long as I continue to get my cut.]” It was the same sort of symbolic gesture we see today when a landlord hands you the keys to your new apartment, often with a bit of a flourish!
Knowing this, my dear reader, do you think Mr Garner should be boasting about having excluded such words in his own re-workings? Or do you think it made some sense to include this legal-history tidbit. Let us thrash it out here!