Jackass Lexicon: “Prima Fascie”

There are some words and phrases I’d like to add to my vocabulary, and then there are some that I’d desperately like to avoid.  Prima fascie is one I think I can do without.

In his “Politics and the English Language”, George Orwell gives six rules for clear and beautiful language:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Prima fascie breaks rule one and five, if not more of them.  Prima fascie denotatively means “It seems”, it usually syntactically means “It seems…,but actually”, but it always means “I’m trying to sound smart.”  People use prima fascie to hide ignorance, obfuscate their language, or in some other way deceive their audience.

The only situation when prima fascie is acceptable is in law.  Since prima fascie is clearly non-English, it lets the speaker/writer use it in ways that “It seems” would not work (e.g. “the prima fascie evidence”, “the prima fascie case”, etc.).  Law, prima fascie, is the only situation where this is useful.  If you are using it in another way, you’re probably a douchebag.