Language: June 2005 Archives

Mopery

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Eugene Volokh points out the WordSmith word of the day: mopery. He's a law professor, and he'd never heard of this legal term. I guess he never saw Revenge of the Nerds. I don't even remember the context, and I'm not even sure of the sketchy details that follow, but I think someone (Booger?) had been arrested, and he described the reason as mopery. In response to the quizzical look that followed, he explained it as "exposing yourself to a blind person". I don't know if that was supposed to be the definition of the term or the description of the particular action that led to the mopery charge. If it was the former it was inaccurate, but if it was the latter it was probably correct. That may well be mopery. It's about as trivial a crime as there can be. According to Volokh, the OED definition is: "The action of committing a minor or petty offence, such as loitering, etc.; contravention of a trivial or hypothetical law, esp. when used as an excuse to harass or arrest a person against whom no more serious crime can be charged."

One reason I thought this was funny is because I just saw Fletch Lives, and one of the characters in that movie tells Fletch that he's in jail for molesting a dead horse. I've always thought of these two scenes as a pair for some reason. I wonder if it's because molesting a dead horse would be mopery as well.

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