Well, as Tony Mauro at the Legal Times blogged about a few weeks back, there may be a simpler way. During the Supreme Court's oral argument on November 10, Assistant to the Solicitor General Nicole Saharsky referred the statute at issue -- 18 U.S.C. 922 (a)(33)(A)(i) and (ii) -- as "Romanette one and two."
Mauro detailed the rest of the exchange:
"Romanette?" asked Chief Justice John Roberts quizzically. "Oh, little Roman numeral," Saharsky replied offhandeldy. No biggie. "I've never heard that before!" said Roberts. "That's ... Romanette."
In all his days in the solicitor general's office and in private practice, Roberts had apparently never run across the term. The audience laughed -- including many, to be sure, who had never heard the word before themselves. Chief justices, along with everyone else, can learn something new every day.
Chief Justice Roberts isn't alone. Eugene Volokh picked up on Mauro's post and blogged about it himself:
The word is in no dictionary that I could find. It appears in no Nexis-searchable publication. A Google search for "Romanette" in English-language pages revealed fewer than 35 pages that used the word before Monday, once all the false positives (the names of people, horses, green bean varieties, blinds, and the like) were removed.
And yet the word, with precisely the meaning Ms. Saharasky used, appears in six court opinions, from federal court in Oklahoma, bankruptcy courts in Texas and Pennsylvania, and state courts in Minnesota, plus ten sources in Westlaw's TP-ALL database (all in practitioner journals, not in traditional law reviews). And the Google hits — mostly from legal documents — come from a similarly wide range of sources: the minutes of a Novato, California City Council meeting, a manual of contract drafting, a transcript of an Idaho Senate commitee meeting, and more. What's more, all but a few use the word as matter-of-factly as Ms. Saharasky did, without any indication that the word is anything novel and unusual; the remaining ones are queries about what the word means or brief discussions of its meaning.
Volokh wonders how a term could be so commonplace in some legal circles -- to the point that its users assume that it's widely known -- but so unknown to others within the same profession. The comments to Volokh's post confirm his observation and seem to reveal that those with transactional backgrounds use the term with regularity (or at least knew of its existence), while litigators tend to be in the dark.
In any event, with so many moot court judges out there who may react the same as Chief Justice Roberts, I hesitate to coach my students to use the term. But it will be interesting to see whether it gradually works its way into common legal parlance.