Common Words with Uncommon (Legal) Meanings: señalar; señalamiento

Common Words with Uncommon Legal Meanings

In his 1963 work “The Language of the Law,” the eminent legal linguist David Mellinkoff observed that legal discourse often uses “common words with uncommon meanings.” Indeed, in both Spanish and English common words and expressions often take on unexpected meanings when used in legal contexts, and there are many simple, seemingly inoffensive everyday words and expressions that can prompt serious translation mistakes if their special legal meanings are ignored. Here we take a look at possible legal meanings of señalar and señalamiento.

In common usage señalar means “to show, underscore or point out.” But in Spanish court procedure señalar often has the meaning of “to schedule,” “to docket” or “to calendar” (i.e., to set the date for trial, for rendering judgment, or for some other court event). Thus, the expression se acordó señalar el día diez de enero para votación y fallo indicates that the case in question was “scheduled (or) docketed (or) calendared for final deliberations and rendering judgment on January 10.”

The noun form is señalamiento and is often used in the sense of “trial.” Thus. petición de suspensión de vista por tener el letrado dos señalamientos is a lawyer’s request to have a hearing postponed due to his having two trials (señalamientos) scheduled on the dockets of different courts at the same time and day. In such cases the court is asked to señalar nueva fecha (reschedule the hearing on another day).

In other respects, in the informal jargon of Spanish real estate transactions señalar is sometimes used with the additional meaning of dar una señal (“to give a deposit” or “to put up earnest money”). Thus entregaron una cantidad de dinero para señalar el piso means “they put up earnest money as a deposit on the apartment.”

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