Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable? The Supreme Court Once Weighed In.

A show about the mysteries of English.
March 14 2014 10:09 AM

Our Next Witness, Your Honor: The Dictionary

Listen to Slate’s show about court cases in which the dictionary played a starring role.

Listen to Lexicon Valley Episode No. 37: Legislating Language

More than a century ago, a grocer in New York sued for the right to have his tomatoes classified as “fruits” and not “vegetables.” To reach a decision, the Supreme Court looked up the definition of some 20 food items and was forced to ponder something most people thought they knew. A little over a decade ago, a subsidiary of Marvel Comics sued the United States for the right to have its X-Men figures, imported from China, recognized under tariff law as “toys” and not “dolls.” To reach a decision, the U.S. Court of International Trade consulted several entries in the Oxford English Dictionary and was forced to ponder the nature of humanity. Listen as Bob Garfield and I discuss what happens when the dictionary takes the stand.

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Mike Vuolo is a radio and podcast producer and the host of Lexicon Valley.

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