The Controversial Person
We are now living in a rapidly changing world, which seems to be moving at an exponential rate. An ineffable amount of changes just within the past 150
years have created a different world now to one that was known before. Some
changes have been beneficial, some catastrophic and some things haven’t
changed at all. This is the way the world works. Yet it is seen more and more by
an ever increasing mass of people that something just isn’t quite right. Some of
these changes are so blatant that none could miss it, even if their eyes were
closed. On the other hand some changes are so subtle that they pass before our
eyes unnoticed like the air we breathe. It is about one of these subtle changes on
which this piece of work is going to focus.
What is that subtle change that affects our lives so deeply yet we are
unaware of it? The answer lies in a word.
What we are presented with before us is but one simple word. That’s
right; one word. A word so common, so ubiquitous that one would be surprised
at the mischief, confusion and debate it has caused. It is a word that has evolved,
over thousands of years, corrupted from its original form, undergoing a
transformation that would be analogous to a single seed becoming a mighty
forest. Unlike many parts of our language which wither away and are forgotten
in antiquity, or others that enter and leave our language in but a single
generation, this slippery little word continues with us like a chameleon adapting
itself to a hostile environment.
So what is this pernicious little word that has created such
pandemonium? Laughingly it is but the ridiculously commonplace word
“person.” That’s it!
One may even ask the question, “why would a paper need to be written on
such a seemingly banal and insipid part of our language?” It must be one of the
most commonly used words in the English language and at the same time the
most misunderstood. Yet it is because it is a part of our language, a part which
affects everyone in the English speaking world, that it is our duty that it must be
questioned, analysed and understood.
A resurfacing of the nature of this word is now being contested in many
areas, none more so than in the area of law, and if there is one area of life that
touches the lives of everyone to a greater or lesser extent, it is that of the Law.
Innocent people are convicted wrongly on the use of this word. It restricts our lives covertly in so many ways, and yet we are ignorant of this. Certain people in
power abuse this ignorance of the word’s meaning and use it to their advantage
causing hardship and distress to the common man or woman.
So does it not behove us to look more closely at this problematic little
part of our everyday speech. Can we now dare to put an end to this
bewilderment that affects all men and women alike? Can clarity be achieved?
Because what it comes down to is one simple question “Is a human being a
It is the aim of this work to provide clarification on this word; to elucidate
its encroachment into some of the more important spheres of our lives and what
the upshot of this is to us, the people. This will be achieved by firstly looking
into the common definition, combined with the etymology and usage of the
word “person.” Then we will look at how this word is used in the area of law,
delving into the world of “legal persons,” and the idea of a “legal personality.” In
the final part we will look more closely into the laws of this country and the
interpretation of our contentious little friend or foe, for it has yet to be decided
whether it is an ally or the enemy, or neither or both.
A little disclaimer must be added here. To avoid confusion I will be using
the word man to avoid the commonly used word “person.” There are no sexist
connotations to this, as when I write man, I mean man, woman, child, boy, girl
and human being. Do not be offended by the usage of the word man it is simply
a tool to avoid any misunderstanding and absurdity in this work. Furthermore
nothing in this work represents legal advice, it is solely a piece of research on a
word which touches on topics in law.