Tag Archives: phrase

Ambulance Chasers

Main Piece

Informant: “We [corporate lawyers] call personal injury attorneys “ambulance chasers.” We mean this as a joke, obviously, but sometimes we … don’t. There’s this stereotype that personal injury attorneys chase around ambulances in order to add the injured persons to their clientele. It’s… it’s a real thing that people do. I know it’s unbelievable but people do it out of desperation. But this is actually illegal and it goes against Rule 7.3 of the ABA (American Bar Association), because you’re basically seeking out people who are in a time of severe distress and are unable to properly think about what they’re doing and who they’re hiring.”

Background

My informant is a General Litigation Lawyer at a major corporate law firm based in Century City, California. He has been working in his field for over five years. My informant admits to using this term a few times when describing unethical practices by personal injury lawyers.

Context

This phrase is used often in a professional environment, but not professionally and in private from one lawyer to another. This phrase can be used in the office, courtrooms, and depositions, but it would not be told in front of others. One lawyer might use this term when speaking to another fellow lawyer, but it would not be said “on record.” This kind of language would be considered unprofessional, so it is told in private. This term is almost always used as a degrading term pertaining to all personal injury lawyers.

My Thoughts

Since I am planning to pursue a career in law, I was familiar with this phrase. The first time I heard this phrase was from one of my political science professors. I believe, like all other stereotypes, that this phrase is not an accurate representation of all those that it pertains to. But, like some stereotypes, it may hold some truths to it. Since ambulance-chasing goes against American Bar Association ethics codes, using this phrase helps to discourage unethical behavior on behalf of the personal injury lawyers. Therefore, the use of this stereotype may be a helpful one as it shames unethical behavior. 

This is a term that neither I nor my informant have ever heard used outside of legal occupations. Therefore, this phrase is a good example of occupational folklore, or folklore that is better understood or widely used within a particular folk group. This is not to say that those outside of the lawyer folk group are not allowed to use it; they will just not be able to extract the full meaning of the word without working in that occupation.

The use of this phrase suggests that there is an unwritten hierarchy in the field of law. Corporate lawers, like my informant, tend to see themselves as higher-ranking and better lawyers than personal injury lawyers. This can give us insight into lawyer culture because we can see that higher-paid lawyers will look down upon lower-paid lawyers and fail to realize that both positions in the field of law are honorable.

For further reading about occupational folklore, see Robert McCarl’s chapter in Elliot Oring’s Folk Groups And Folklore Genres: An Introduction titled “Occupational Folklore.”

Chinese Proverb of “To Kill Two Birds with One Stone”

Main Story: 

“There is a common saying in Chinese (Mandarin) : 箭双雕” 

Original Script : 箭双雕 

Phonetic: Yi (Yee) Jian Shuang Diao

Transliteration: Complete two tasks with one job 

Full translation: to shoot two birds with one arrow

This saying is also present in English, it is the same concept as “to kill two birds with one stone”. The theory being you can complete two separate tasks with one action. For example: say a person has to go get a test done at the doctor’s office and also a check up with a different doctor. But both doctors happen to operate out of the same medical office building. By scheduling the appointments back to back, the person is able to complete two tasks (the doctors’ appointments) with one action (driving to the medical office building). 

Background: 

The informant of this info is my friend and she is Chinese and used to live in Shanghai. She always found it interesting that this phrase exists in both English and in Chinese in an almost synonymous context. She can’t find anywhere as to which phrase came first and who got it from who or if the similarity is purely coincidental, and if it is a coincidental likeness then she wanders what does that say about human nature? 

Context:

The informant is a friend of mine and we were video calling over the phone during quarantine and just chatting about life and funny coincidences across cultures.

My thoughts: 

I kind of agree with my friend on how she feels about the odd coincidence between the two languages and the same phrase. It is interesting that they are so similar in literally every aspect of their meaning. 

Straight Pocket Bet

Piece:

Informant: “My grandfather loved the Reds, the Cincinnati Reds, but he didn’t hear well, so he had this radio that he would put up on a ledge at his house, it was just about your height. So he would go stand by that, with his good… with his better ear up against the radio and listen to a ball game from start to finish. And we would see them every Sunday, this was part of our routine, and he would always want to make a bet… I think I did this with you guys too… so we would negotiate a bet about the Reds or something and we would finally shake hands and he would say straight pocket bet. ‘Well, what’s that mean grandpa?’ I would say. And he always responded: ‘no matter what happens we each keep our money in our pocket.’”

Background:

The informant learned the expression “straight pocket bet” from his grandfather and their tradition of listening to Cincinnati Reds games together. To the two it was a way of instilling friendly competition without the actual need for financial stakes, and it allowed them to bond over sports, which has always been an interest for the family.

Context:

This expression and the conversation leading up to it were recorded during a scheduled meeting at my home in San Diego, CA.

Thoughts:

My initial reaction to this was that it provided an easy platform over which to debate sports topics, or anything that might be negotiated with a bet for that matter. However, another interesting potential use of this could be to deceive someone who has no knowledge of this expression into making such a bet, and only letting them know what it means in the case of a loss (although this might be potentially dangerous if used in the wrong situation).

Knock a Dog Off a Gut Wagon

Piece:

Informant: “Smelled so bad it would knock a dog off a gut wagon.”

Background:

The informant learned this saying from her mother, and explained that it came from old butcher shops that would deliver meat on vehicles called “gut wagons,” where the meat and inedible guts of an animal were separated.

Context:

This was recorded during a conversation at the informant’s home in San Diego, CA.

Thoughts:

I think this is a good example of a saying that has probably declined in use due to its decreased relevance in the modern day. I have never heard of this saying or even a “gut wagon” before, which is largely unsurprising given the rise of the food industries, which has led to the separation of consumers and the processes that bring food from farm to table. Instead of directly interacting with a butcher, most consumers nowadays simply visit a grocery store and purchase prepackaged meat that is already trimmed and cleaned.

“Every day is for the thief, one day is for the owner.”

Subject: Yoruba (Nigerian Proverb

Phonetic Script: “Kwa ụbọchị bụ maka ohi, otu ụbọchị dị ka onye nwe.”

Translation:” Every day is for the thief, one day is for the owner.”

Interpretation: You can lie, cheat, and steal, but one day, you will be caught.

Analysis: This proverb shows the values of the Igbo people. Virtue is better that self-interest.