Judge's wigs and J-Lo's bum.

Judge's wigs and J-Lo's bum.

Judge's wigs and J-Lo's bum.

What the foreign papers are saying.
May 9 2003 7:11 PM

Getting Wiggy With It

Who said Britain is a change-averse nation? Only four centuries after they were introduced, horsehair wigs, described by the Financial Times as "the symbol of the English legal system that for centuries has crowned the head of the English judge," may be on their way to the knacker's yard. Also slated for possible axing are the "silk robes, black girdles, violet and red sashes, knee breeches, fur mantles, stockings, and buckled shoes" that are also worn by judges, even though they sound more like items likely to be found in a particularly Rococo bordello.

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According to the Guardian, a survey commissioned by the lord chancellor, the Cabinet minister in charge of the administration of justice in England and Wales, showed that "two out of three people wanted [wigs] scrapped except in criminal cases." The lord chancellor's report said, "There is no justification for retaining working court dress on the ground of tradition alone—our courts are not a tourist attraction." The Guardian noted that many senior judges "would welcome the scrapping of wigs, which they feel contribute to the public view of them as fuddy-duddy and out of touch with ordinary people's lives." However, the Times pointed out that judges who appear in the criminal courts like the element of disguise a wig provides, since it reduces "the likelihood of their being confronted in the street by a criminal they had helped to convict."

Bingo! The Guardian reported another example of British modernization: Holiday-camp operator Butlin's has commissioned a professor of popular culture to update the rhyming slang used by its bingo callers. According to the BBC, the quest for cultural relevance means "bang on the drum" will no longer represent 71. In its place: "J-Lo's bum."

June Thomas is managing producer of Slate podcasts.