August 16, 2004

Redeemable in cash

Section 1749.5 of the California Civil Code states that any gift certificate sold after January 1, 1997, is redeemable in cash for its cash value. Section 1749.6 continues, "This section does not require, unless otherwise required by law, the issuer of a gift certificate to redeem a gift certificate for cash." Dennis Rockstroh, in the San Jose Mercury News Actionline column (Sunday, August 15, 2004, page 3B), asks: "Confused? Me,too." He's right, I think. We should be confused.

Among the things that baffle me are: (i) To which section does "this section" refer? (ii) Could "otherwise" refer to the other section? (iii) Is "require ... the issuer of a gift certificate to redeem a gift certificate" supposed to mean "require ... the issuer of a gift certificate to redeem it", and if so, why didn't they say that grammatically? (Think about it. "I have a Corvette and I'm selling a Corvette" suggests there are two different Corvettes, right?) (iv) Why does my head hurt? (v) Is it fair that you can be sent to jail for breaking a law that no one can understand? (vi) If this section doesn't require redemption in cash unless it is otherwise required by law, does that mean (I hope you follow this) that if redemption in cash is otherwise required by law then this section changes its effect and does require cash redemption? (vii) Why do they allow state lawmakers to write slop like this instead of requiring them to work under the supervision of trained linguists?

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at August 16, 2004 06:09 PM