Lexicons / Lexiques

Earlier in the week e-discovery diva and twitterer Peg Duncan sent out a request for “an ‘official’ French translation for ‘redaction’…” (She’d come up with épuration, caviardage and expurgation thus far.) Then, as synchronicity will have it, shortly afterwards I came across the University of Ottawa’s CLTD (Centre for Legal Translation and Documentation) lexicons, which I believe we’ve not pointed to on Slaw before.

The Federal Lexicon / lexique fédéral presents you with a word list in either English or French, each word linked to a collection of uses (word plus context) drawn from federal legislation in the other language, giving you a law-idiomatic translation. There’s a comparable lexicon based in Ontario legislation.

Sadly for Peg — but perhaps not for our statute law — the word ‘redaction’ doesn’t appear in either lexicon (though ‘redacted’ is used many times in cases for which there’s a French translation).


  1. Can I hazard a guess that the reason that there is no ‘official translation’ is that “redact”, “redacteur”, “redactrice” are all French words primarily, [admittedly as rédaction] and that the simple English words “edit” or “editor” are the words used in non-bilingual societies like England.

    The OED definition [which I can’t access – anyone with a subscription want to scrape it?] suggests that a late middle English term was only revived in the Nineteenth century.

    Searching in Worldlii reveals ten times more French language references than English – though Professor Mowbray should look at how many Monaco and Mali links are 404 Not Found.

    The legal meaning is I believe less than 15 years old.

    Peg – stick an acute accent on what you have.

  2. The OED hasn’t quite caught up with the current CIA meaning yet:

    redact, v.
    . . .

    4. In modern use: a. To draw up, frame (a statement, decree, etc.).

    1837 CARLYLE Fr. Rev. I. V. ii, The oath is redacted; pronounced aloud by President Bailly. 1845 Cromwell (1871) I. 101 The House of Commons..was busy redacting a ‘Protestation’. 1860 W. G. CLARK in Vac. Tour. 46 A council of ministers was held in the palace..: they were engaged in redacting the two proclamations.

    b. To put (matter) into proper literary form; to work up, arrange, or edit.

    1851 CARLYLE Sterling III. v, Sterling..redacts it in a Times leader. 1884 Times 1 Nov. 9 Their observations are recorded, tabulated, digested, and redacted in every possible way.

    Hence redacted ppl. a.

    1676 COLES, Redacted, forced back. 1898 G. B. GRAY in Expositor May 347 The present redacted text of Genesis.

  3. Turns out that “caviardage” is the well-accepted term for redaction both here and in France. In litigation, the term redaction refers to the blacking out of information that the party cannot produce for reasons of privilege or confidentiality.

    A little nerdy etymology:

    v.t. caviarder [conj. 3]
    Supprimer un passage d’un texte, d’un article; censurer.
    Remarque Ce verbe vient de caviar, qui désignait un enduit noir dont on recouvrait les articles censurés d’un journal, sous le tsar Nicolas Ier.
    (de Larousse Pratique)

  4. US legal usage, not just in litigation, tends to use “redact” as a synonym for “delete” – but applied to parts of a document. When I ran into its frequent use about a dozen years ago, I didn’t know what it meant (“we’ll have to redact that”) but eventually figured it out. Definitely not OED. Those with online access can tell us whether it’s CED.