Source: Oxford Dictionaries
And finally, when I thought you were making sexual advances in the workplace, I said no and I was not litigious.
– Rachel Green, Friends (Season 5, Episode 17 – The One With Rachel’s Inadvertent Kiss)
If you’re as big a fan of Friends as I am, you no doubt remember this quote from an episode where Rachel is being interviewed for a job at Ralph Lauren. After humiliating herself by accidentally kissing her interviewer, mistaking a later gesture of his as a sexual advance, and yelling at him for his supposedly inappropriate behavior, she tries to convince him to hire her by listing all the qualities she had shown him up to that point. Among these was the fact that even though she had thought he was demanding a “bribe” in exchange for a job, she did not plan to sue him for it. And isn’t that something many employers hope for in a potential employee?
A “litigious” person is someone who is prone to settling disputes by going to law, especially unreasonably so. The word can be traced back through the Old French adjective litigieux to the Latin adjective litigiosus, which means “quarrelsome”. These, in turn, stem from the noun lis/litis, meaning “lawsuit”.
As far as I can remember, I’d never heard the word “litigious” before watching this episode of Friends, nor have I heard it used elsewhere since. Evidently, its use in speech has declined over time, though in my opinion, it doesn’t seem like the kind of word that would fit outside of legal commentary anyway. For that, you’ll probably never see it appear in my work, but you could easily make good use of it if your stories are themed around the practice of Law. If you write stories set in law firms and courtrooms, you already have a decent amount of “litigious” characters to work with!
What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?