Linguistic and Cross-Cultural Complexities of A Specialized Legal Item: The ‘True And Fair’ Case

Annalisa Zanola


The use of the terms ‘true’ and ‘fair’ seems to raise old well-known problems regarding rhetoric and law culture. The couple finds its foundations in literary contexts in the 16th century, it becomes a hendiadys in the following centuries, and then it is a codified ‘formula’ in legal context.

A discussion over the need for an interpretation of the terms used by auditors in expressing their opinion appears in the accounting literature. Nevertheless, this does not change the inherent and long-standing vagueness and ambiguity of the undefined expression, ‘true and fair’ view, which has been  used since it was introduced in the 1948 UK Companies Act. The term has a legal origin in the 18th century, and it appears to have been translated into a legal definition concerning corporate accountability in the 20th century.

The aim of our contribution is that of analysing the possible linguistic and cross-cultural contexts where the hendiadys true and fair was born, and exploring the meaning implications of the same ‘formula’ during the centuries. We start from the hypothesis that true and fair is a hendiadys, to show that the two terms take strength and completeness one from the other, so as to generate an only complex meaning, whose original usage was, last but not least,  a literary and poetical one. The analysis of the hendiadys moves from the non-legal to the legal context, following steps of the etymological and lexical research methodology.


Hendiadys; Tautology; True and Fair, Legal English

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