Unlikely Presence in Court: the Racy 'Urban Dictionary'
Site launched as a joke cited in dozens of cases
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted May 21, 2013 9:23 AM CDT
Courts are turning to the Urban Dictionary to help settle cases.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Your average court may not be able to define "nut" as a verb; it may struggle to figure out why a pair of thieves called themselves "jack boys." That's where the Urban Dictionary comes in. In the former case, its definition of "to nut"—"to ejaculate"—helped a court decide to reject an effort to dismiss a sex harassment case against the manager who used the term. As for the "jack boys," the definition of "to jack" as "to steal" helped settle the question of restitution in a van theft. So reports the New York Times in a quirky look at the online slang dictionary, which the paper reports has been referenced in court dozens of times, per a Lexis database search.

"If it is Urban Dictionary or hire some linguistic expert to do a survey, it seems like a pretty cheap, pretty good alternative for the court," says a law professor. Others, however, doubt the website is dependable. "Some of the stuff on their site is very good, but there is more chaff than wheat. It is a lazy person’s resource," says an editor of the more proper sounding New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Indeed, the site was launched by college student Aaron Peckham in 1999 as a sort of joke; initially, Peckham and friends made up the words they posted to it. Now, it's the 77th most trafficked website in the US. The Times notes that the crowd-sourced site doesn't allow just any definition though: About two-thirds of users' proposed words get turned down by voting users, Peckham says. The Times shares other examples of words that have bubbled up in court, including "grenade" (this one isn't the kind that goes "boom").

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Showing 3 of 11 comments
May 23, 2013 12:38 PM CDT
Looked up the Urban meaning of "grenade" and still laughing! Don't know where the kids come up with some of these but their hilarious. Congrats to UrDict's founder. Great story, great site.
May 21, 2013 8:28 PM CDT
I wonder if they use it for the definition of "ax".
May 21, 2013 12:11 PM CDT
For those who were wondering , about "Grenade" I had to look it up.... The solitary ugly girl always found with a group of hotties. If the grenade doesn't get any action, then neither does anyone else."Come on man, take one for the team and jump the grenade"