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CALIFORNIA CORPORATE & SECURITIES LAW

Of Section Symbols And Pilcrows

It wasn’t so very long ago that the lawyer who typed his or her own documents was a rara avis indeed.  Nowadays, there are few attorneys who don’t.  Therefore, I think most lawyers today share the annoyance of inserting the glyph denoting a section – §.  In some applications (such as WordPress on which I type this blog), this means using the mouse to locate the symbol on the toolbar.  This hassle is shared with other typographic symbols, such as the pilcrow – ¶.

The section sign is formed by combining the letter “S”.  Why a double “S”?  It may be that the symbol derives from, what else, two Latin words, signum sectionis, meaning sign of the section.  The double “S” appearing on a notary’s form of acknowledgement is not the same.  The notary’s double “S” is shorthand for the Latin exploratory particle, scilicet, meaning “namely” or “that is to say”.  Scilicet is itself a contraction of scire and licet, meaning it is permitted to know.

The paragraph glyph, or pilcrow, is also of Latin origin.  It is derived from the use of the letter “C” to denote the beginning of a new topic.  The “C” was shorthand for the Latin word, capitulum, meaning a small head.  Capitulum is the diminutive form of caput, meaning head.  See Why The Capitol Is In The Capital.  At some point, a vertical a line was added to the “C”.  Eventually, rubricators embellished the glyph into its modern form.  The word “pilcrow” is derived from two Greek words – παρά, meaning beside, and γράφειν, meaning to write.  The word “pilcrow” is rare, but does occasionally find its way into court rulings.  See, e.g., Official Comm. of Unsecured Creditors of Country Stone Holdings, Inc. v. First Midwest Bank, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41720 (C.D. Ill. Mar. 30, 2016) (“When citing to the motion to withdraw the reference, citations are made using the pilcrow (“¶”) without further attribution.”).

 

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