You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.

Law Perfesser Talk

Law profs seem to be into the word “fungible”. I first heard it used aloud by one here about a year ago. I have a vivid visual memory of where I was – holy shit! someone said that out loud! y’all folks is fancy here! better look that one up!

I was chitchatting with another professor just now as I finished fixing her computer (hello Welchia my old friend). She told me she’s been using the machine in class for the first time this year; powerpoint presentations and whatnot. I asked her how the kids were liking it — she said they liked it, but she was a bit put off by their eyes being glued to the screen. That it felt like they weren’t paying attention to her anymore. “I could take my shirt off and nobody would notice! It makes me feel kind of fungible.”

Maybe they pick it up in contract law or something? Ah, OED sez it “belongs to Civil Law and to the general theory of Jurisprudence”.

5 Responses to “Law Perfesser Talk”

  1. vernica Says:

    How strange! I heard that word for the first time today. I had no idea what the person meant, but since it was casual conversation, I did not worry about it. But, the next time I hear it I will understand…Perhaps, I will add it to my regular vocabulary :).

  2. Ezra Cooper Says:

    “Fungible” has a more precise, and more onerous, connotation than merely “interchangeable,” one which has personal significance for me. It can refer to the phenomenon whereby the funds of, say, a country, can get freed up by a donation. E.g., you want to alleviate third-world hunger and not sponsor civil wars, so you make a donation of $100mil. to Somalia, e.g., and dog-ear those funds specifically for food. Somalia responds by taking the $100mil. of its own tax revenue that it was spending on food and putting it into improvements for the president’s house(s). Despite dog-earing your funds, you’ve effectively made a donation to the president’s home improvement fund.

    To take another example: you want a modest $100 donation to your very selective alma mater to be spent on scholarships for underfunded inner-city students such as yourself—students who are very much in the minority at said mater, and who are generally at a disadvantage in society as a whole because of lack of access to quality higher education. Hence, you check the box that deposits your donation in a fund for scholarships; administration responds by reallocating some of the unmarked billions that came in that year from more fruitful, and less picky, alumni, moving them out of the scholarship fund and into the “fancy parties for visiting dignitaries” fund. That’s fungible.

  3. Desultor Says:

    Gawrsh! That’s the kind of thing that would make me not want to ever give any money to my selective alma mater again!

    How are you supposed to do good with money if people pull slimey tricks like that?

  4. Desultor Says:

    Oh, and Vernica, that is wicked strange! I don’t know whether to interpret it as a divine hint to add “fungible” to my workaday vocabulary, or a divine admonition to avoid it. 🙂

  5. Rosie Peters Says:

    Question is, did the professor feel the need to take her shirt off while you worked on the computer? What a strange thing to say to you!
    How do you pronounce this new word for me – as in fungus or rhyming with grunge? I would hate to mispronounce it and appear uneducated.