Ignoramus - Encyclopedia




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IGNORAMUS (Latin for "we do not know," "we take no notice of"), properly an English law term for the endorsement on the bill of indictment made by a grand jury when they "throw out" the bill, i.e. when they do not consider that the case should go to a petty jury. The expression is now obsolete, "not a true bill," "no bill," being used. The expressions "ignoramus jury," "ignoramus Whig," &c., were common in the political satires and pamphlets of the years following on the throwing out of the bill for high treason against the 2nd earl of Shaftesbury in 1681. The application of the term to an ignorant person dates from the early part of the 17th century. The New English Dictionary quotes two examples illustrating the early connexion of the term with the law or lawyers. George Ruggle (1575-1622) in 1615 wrote a Latin play with the title Ignoramus, the name being also that of the chief character in it, intended for one Francis Brakin, the recorder of Cambridge. It is a satire against the ignorance and pettifogging of the common lawyers of the day. It was answered by a prose tract (not printed till 1648) by one Robert Callis, serjeant-at-law. This bore the title of The Case and Argument against Sir Ignoramus of Cambridge.

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