Monday, February 04, 2019

So Why Is It Called Forensics?

Easily confused with Forensic Science, Forensics the colloquial and standard short-form of "Forensic Speech" is the study and practice of public speaking and debate.

So why the heck isn't it just called a public speaking? Probably because public speaking just isn't fancy enough a term and lacks the history, pomp and circumstance of the word forensics.

Looking at the dictionary its easy to see why these are confused as the word forensic has multiple meanings.

Definition of forensic

(Entry 1 of 2)
1 : belonging to, used in, or suitable to courts of judicature or to public discussion and debate a lawyer's forensic skills
2 : argumentative, rhetorical forensic eloquence
3 : relating to or dealing with the application of scientific knowledge to legal problems forensic medicine forensic science forensic pathologist forensic experts

forensic noun
Definition of forensic (Entry 2 of 2)
1 : an argumentative exercise
2 forensics plural in form but singular or plural in construction : the art or study of argumentative discourse
3 forensics plural in form but singular or plural in construction : the application of scientific knowledge to legal problems especially : scientific analysis of physical evidence (as from a crime scene)

Of course finding out why forensics is the word used for speech and debate and the history of the usage of the word forensics isn't exactly easy or clear.

The word forensics comes from Aristotle's work "The Rhetoric" in which he divided rhetoric int three general categories: epideictic (ceremonial), deliberative (policy), and forensic (legal). Public address and debate skills were important in the Ancient Greek courts and also in public life, and this continues even in modern Western Courts and in public life as well. After all, we tend to like our leaders to be able to speak well and you probably wouldn't want a lawyer who couldn't get a word in on your behalf.

Since we do like our Classical origins and the classics, Universities and other educational institutions applied the term forensics to speech and debate activities.

The word forensics apparently first pops up in English around 1659 being first used in regard to speech in the legal system and by the 1830s seems to have entered the universities as a word for the study of, and competition in, public speaking and debate.

Legal speech and policy debates were very popular in the US (think Lincoln-Douglas debates for example) and the public wanted to be educated andable to speak and argue effectively. Later in the United States a variety of speech, learning and competitive activities beyond just legal and policy got grouped together under the term forensics or forensic speech. Then the categories under the rubric forensics expanded even more to include other oratorical events such as interpretations including poetry recitals, impromptu speaking, and now includes sales presentations, broadcasting, storytelling, Duo, and Multiple events.

So now you know (whether you wanted to or not) why its called a forensics competition without a single person from CSI attending.

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