Tort Times III: Judgement…I Mean Judgment Day

Social distancing so far

With the recent social distancing and self-quarantine requirements, I have been able to catch up on a lot of movies I missed out on. One of the movies I had been meaning to watch was the most recent trials and tribulations of the Connor family, Terminator: Dark Fate. It got fairly decent reviews and with Linda Hamilton returning to the big screen, it seemed like a good way to spend my Saturday night. But alas, even the best-laid plans go awry and I ended up watching the second Terminator for the hundredth time instead, more commonly known as T2: Judgment Day. Seeing as my last article touched on spelling, I figured I would keep with the grammar theme for this month’s article and discuss the right spelling and usage of “judgment.” So, which is the correct spelling, judgment or judgement?

Judgment versus judgement

In actuality, you can’t really go wrong with either one. As with many words, the different spelling is attributable to different countries or locales, in this situation the United States and Great Britain. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word was originally spelled “judgment” by our British counterparts. While that still is the dominant spelling, “judgement” has increased in popularity and common usage over the last half-century, and for the most part Brits use the two spellings interchangeably. However, Americans primarily use the word “judgment”, and it is overwhelmingly spelled this way in American dictionaries. Because of this you are much more likely to hesitate when reading the word spelled “judgement.”

Judgment generally wins

Legally speaking though, both Americans and Brits agree that “judgment” is the proper spelling. A search in Lexis Advance shows that “judgment” is by far the dominant spelling and is universally preferred.  Looking at Supreme Court cases, only around 200 opinions even contain the word “judgement”, while over 10,000 use “judgment.” Despite the increasing popularity and acceptance of “judgement” in used by the British-English speaking public, “judgment” is still used exclusively in the legal context.

How does this affect you

So how does this affect you? Probably not very much at all. It wasn’t until I got to law school that I actually paid attention to how the word was spelled, which was probably because I wasn’t writing “judgment” all too often before then. Now I just spell it “judgment” out of habit. Despite “judgment” being the proper spelling in the legal world, you’re probably more likely to question your own spelling when you come across it spelled ‘judgement” than “judge” the other person. Regardless, it’s not like Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to hunt you down for adding an extra “e” every now and then. Until next time. Hasta la vista, baby.