French Fries Are Meat: The Legal Poetics of Getting from Law to Justice

53 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2023

See all articles by Jeffrey Miller

Jeffrey Miller

McGill University (2014); Western Univ. (2009-12); Law and Justice Research Centre

Date Written: January 23, 2023


A summary way of describing the present essay is an analysis of linguistic metaphysics in law. It considers legal operations that make a juristic “something” out of relatively thin air – an undertaking, a trust, a dismissal, a warranty, even reasonableness – in a more or less supernatural iteration but with mundane and practical consequences. More pointedly, it considers how law regularly uses abstract or even poetic language to attempt to work justice, how certain, notionally poetic, forms of legalese – fictions, constructions, deemings, presumptions, etc. – comprise a branch of equity, a systematic effort to ease the rigor of black letter law, to render it more humane or “more moral.” I examine how litigants, lawyers, judges, and legislators remake our societies through The Word, shaping law in the cause of renovation and sometimes redemption. I also consider how such poetics can serve the improper purpose of judicial legislating or politics.

Keywords: legal language, legal poetics, legal metaphor, linguistics of justice, legal philology

Suggested Citation

Miller, Jeffrey, French Fries Are Meat: The Legal Poetics of Getting from Law to Justice (January 23, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Jeffrey Miller (Contact Author)

McGill University (2014); Western Univ. (2009-12) ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1W9

Law and Justice Research Centre ( email )

Toronto, Ontario


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