Our Favorite this week is a bit of an odd duck. Whoever thought that the United States Supreme Court would be citing Pride and Prejudice in one of its decisions? Well, on January 13, 2015 it did.
It was a case where a bank robber fleeing from the scene broke into a woman’s home and “guided a terrified Parnell from a hallway to a room a few feet away, where she suffered a fatal heart attack.” This bank robber (Whitfield) was convicted of (among other things) forcing the woman to accompany him–which increased the penalties he’d face. He was appealing based on the definition of the word “accompaniment”, which is used in the statute he was convicted of violating.
This is (in part) what the Court decided:
In 1934, just as today, to “accompany” someone meant to “go with” him. See Oxford English Dictionary 60 (1st ed. 1933) (defining “accompany” as: “To go in company with, to go along with”). The word does not, as Whitfield contends, connote movement over a substantial distance. It was, and still is, perfectly natural to speak of accompanying someone over a relatively short distance, for example: from one area within a bank “to the vault”; “to the altar” at a wedding; “up the stairway”; or into, out of, or across a room. English literature is replete with examples. See, e.g., C. Dickens, David Copperfield 529 (Modern Library ed. 2000) (Uriah “accompanied me into Mr. Wickfield’s room”); J. Austen, Pride and Prejudice 182 (Greenwich ed. 1982) (Elizabeth “accompanied her out of the room”).
Interesting, isn’t it? 😀
You can check out the full text of the decision here.