Subject to the following exclusions

We appear to be living in the age of the disclaimer. Lately, I’ve been noticing these things everywhere and not I’m not just talking about the meaningless gumph that every e-mail grudgingly drags along behind it. For example, “Only effective as part of a kilojoule-controlled diet“, is pretty much standard equipment on any weight-loss product. A trip to the movies armed with your two-for-one membership card invariably falls foul of the “does not apply to new releases or any movie you particularly want to see” stipulation.

Warning labels fall into a whole category on their own. “Brandishing your screwdriver meaningfully near this product can cause SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH!” is the usual warning on most electronic equipment. The jar of peanut butter emblazoned with the dire caution, “Warning: produced in a factory that processes nut products” remains a firm favourite of mine. The fundamental difference between a warning label and a disclaimer (other than the obvious entertainment value) is the hope that people will read the former, but not the latter.

“It’s so underhanded”, I found myself thinking. Then it occurred to me that disclaimerspeak is actually a less dishonest form of communication than normal, day-to-day conversation. People hardly ever say what they really mean. One has only to read a small sample of the lamentations being poured into blogspace to realise how true this is. We would take a great step forward in the field of human understanding if we could add disclaimers to everyday speech.

To illustrate: “I love you. Disclaimer: only applicable until my erection subsides” or “Yes. Disclaimer: this statement is subject to the limitation that I reserve the right to change my mind at any time“.

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9 thoughts on “Subject to the following exclusions

  1. I understand the need for disclaimers/warnings as we live in a society where ppl will find any excuse to prosecute and/or profit from it.
    Yet, you are right, some them are just plain ridiculous!!
    PS: None of the above is true and cannot be used against me in a court of law

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  2. Absolutely. Disclaimer: This comment cannot be construed to imply, infer or otherwise indicate anything other than the intended meaning of the author(s), except where prohibited or prescribed to the contrary by applicable law and/or laws, including, but not limited by all statutes of limitation.

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  3. A very interesting idea. I agree with your thoughts about disclaimers too. Seinfeld (I think) told of one on a Superman costume box that said “Will not allow wearer to fly”. Something like that at least. Great post.

    Thank you for commenting on the site earlier. Disclaimer: Still a thank you. And a nice post.

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  4. You’d LOVE my photo collection of Australian warning signs – they seem to believe that if they tell you “don’t” often enough, you won’t, and then no-one will be sued, see? 🙂

    Only trouble is, you’re so busy reading the numerous warning signs that you’re likely to walk into a pole / crash into the car in front of you / step off the train into space / fall down the elevator…

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