Admit it, Texas litigators: You’ve been mispronouncing that funny two-word phrase used to describe the jury selection process for years.
That’s what Lyn Robbins (pictured) suspected as he was preparing a speech about jury selection to deliver next month in Phoenix for the National Association of Railroad Trial Counsel. He thought it would be funny to see how his legal brothers and sisters all across the country pronounced the phrase and include that information in his speech.
So he decided to poll 114 of his attorney friends, who are located in 29 states and Washington, D.C., and simply asked them how they say they pronounce voir dire. Here are the results and his commentary, as quoted from an email from him:
“Vorr Dyer” – 46 (although many of you admit this is wrong and/or redneck)
“Vwuah Deer” – 43 (many of you are very proud of yourself and your intricate manipulation of French)
“Vwar Deer” – 9
“Vorr Deer” – 7
“Voy Dire” – 5
“Jury Selection” – 3
“Vwor Dire” – 1 (explained to me as “rhymes with tire”)
“Vwor Dar” – 0 (some of you are lying; I have heard you, and this is what you say)
Robbins, a senior general attorney for BNSF Railway Co. in Fort Worth, says he learned to say “Vorr Dyer” like everybody else in Texas when he attended Baylor Law School. But his survey found that pronunciation is hardly limited to the Lone Star State, he says.
“And it’s not just southern. I got that pronunciation from 13 different states. Now, some of them are from people who got their law degrees in Texas and practice elsewhere -- but not all of them,” Robbins says.
Voir dire is a French phrase meaning “to see, to say.” “Most lawyers get it wrong and believe it [means] ‘to speak the truth.’ That’s probably what it means, but that’s not the translation.’’
What does Robbins say? “I usually say ‘jury selection’,” he says.
And if anybody cares, I’ve covered Texas trial courts for 19 years, and I proudly mangle the phrase by saying “Vorr Dyer.” And that makes me proud.
--- John Council