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null and void adjective

void; no longer of any effect; unenforceable
Mr Cameron said the constitution should be declared "null and void" following its rejection by France and Holland.
Contract Law, General legal English

Hi I'm Peter and welcome to this week's lesson of the week. Today I'm going to be talking about doublets.

Now doublets are a common problem that we encounter here at TransLegal and I'm hopefully going to clarify the question of doublets in a few short minutes.

So the question is, do the words within doublets, also known as couplets, such as null and void and due and payable and cease and desist, do they have distinctive meanings?

Well the short answer is no. Using both words is an unnecessary lawyerism since both mean exactly the same thing.

Now these doublets came into being in England following the Norman Conquest approximately 1,000 years ago. Naturally, since the Normans spoke French, English courts were held in French. But not surprisingly, most people in England still spoke English, so lawyers started using both English and French words in order to be understood. And that is one of the primary reasons why so many of these couplets or doublets such as aid and abet, cease and desist, null and void, due and payable, indemnify and hold harmless, and others are still commonly used in legal drafting today. It's the desire to be clearly understood.

Still, at the end of the day, they are redundant and in these days of plain English in the legal world, many consider it preferable to use one word rather than two. That said, it's still generally accepted practice to use them and when necessary, they can provide emphasis and clarity.

That's it for today. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below and myself or one of my colleagues will get back to you as soon as we can. Thank you.

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