Backwards-correct-syntaxing-modification fraud challenged

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Jillian Rayfield, "‘Sovereign Citizen’ Sues Prosecutors For Grammar-Based Conspiracy", TPM :

A so-called sovereign citizen in Washington, recently sentenced to three years for threatening to “arrest” a local mayor, is now suing federal prosecutors for conspiring against him using poor grammar, or as he calls it, “backwards-correct-syntaxing-modification fraud.”

David Russell Myrland filed a (virtually incomprehensible) lawsuit in federal court in Washington in late January, accusing federal prosecutors and Department of Homeland Security officials of violating his civil rights through “babbling-collusion-threats” and “grammar-second-grade-writing-level-fraud.”

Myrland's filing (or, as I should write, David-Russell:: Myrland's filing) is here. It begins:

As Rayfield explains,

The lawsuit was filed with the help of David Wynn Miller, who, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, is another “sovereign citizen” who calls himself the “king of Hawaii” and claims the government uses grammar to enslave people.

We've discussed Mr. Miller's theories here before: "All words have 900 definitions?", 1/29/2010; "Did Loughner read Miller?", 1/10/2011.


  1. Dan Lufkin said,

    February 15, 2012 @ 9:49 pm

    How'd you like to be Mr. ::Myrland's cell-mate? That'd be real punishment.

  2. maidhc said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 12:08 am

    If the government uses grammar to enslave people, what about spelling? Is there some special significance to "HANDCAPPING"?

    The problem with this kind of stuff is that it's awfully tempting to dig into it to see if there's some underlying structure or organizing principle. It sounds a bit like something Philip K. Dick would come up with.

    PKD did say “The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use them.”

    However, I suspect that the potential entertainment value of attempting to read this fellow's stuff is considerably less than reading Philip K. Dick.

  3. Cy said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 2:05 am

    Has anyone gotten a dna sample from these cases? These symptoms seem more interesting (and more common) than those people in the UK who walk on four legs – there's some interesting noun-phrase modification going on here, or maybe the prepositions are just throwing me off.

    Is he missing an allele, does he have an extra one, or a duplicate? Is this the result of brain wiring, chemicals, or an injury? Do languages develop thanks to novel users like this, or is his signal/noise ratio just an outlier? So many questions, but whenever I hear these things it's from people I don't want to be around, or places that are unsafe.

  4. W. Kiernan said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 8:01 am

    I read about this filing on

    and immediately thought of Language Log, where I see you guys are already on the case!

    There's a compound word in the quote on tpm


    I never saw the word "lodial" before, and the authors of the 1929 OED hadn't either, but after some poking around I found the obscure word "allodial," which describes a concept of interest to "sovereign citizen" types, that is, land ownership without fealty to a superior power such as a King or a state. "Allodium" derives from a German word "alod," but if I hadn't read the OED entry for "allodium" I wouldn't know that, and I might assume the "al-" at the beginning was a Greek-style "not-" so I could imagine another even more obscure word "lodium" meaning the opposite of "allodium." That's my guess as to where this new word "lodium" came from anyway.

  5. BobC said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 8:34 am

    @maidhc: What is the sound of one hand capping?

  6. Derrick said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 9:17 am

    I have to say that with the RANDOM-CAPITALIZATION and HYPHENATED-COMPOUND-WORDS, not to mention the ::strange ~tildes and other odd syntactic elements, it looks a lot like LISP from a distance.

    [(myl) But LISP enslaves you with parentheses…]

  7. Kathryn said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 10:44 am

    maidhc: Possibly from the linguist's point of view there is some underlying structure or organizing principle–but I can tell you that from the perspective of a lawyer who has read a large number of /pro se/ pleadings, non-linguistic structure and organization are sadly lacking. Although I'll admit I've never encountered one from a sovereign citizen who believes that government uses grammar to enslave us; that could explain an awful about the texts of statutes and regulations! Actually, this sounds like one of those folks who believes the Constitution is the received word of God. . .

  8. Michael Cargal said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 11:21 am

    "the government uses grammar to enslave people."

    At last, a practical use for the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

  9. Spell Me Jeff said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 11:59 am

    As soon as I saw the sample, but before I read Mark's last sentence, I thought of that Miller guy (not by name, but I remembered the Loughner post and Miller's website).

    I wonder if it's JUST that I associate Miller with Language Log that I was able to do so, or if there is something so distinctive about Miller's style that it stuck with me for a year. If so, what?

  10. Kathryn said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

    OK, I couldn't leave it alone–I downloaded a copy from the Federal court website (which I would be happy to share), and it actually looks like there might be a discernible linguistic underlying structure and organizing principles. It is, however, even less comprehensible as written text than are most /pro se/ documents, which is saying something.

  11. Rod Johnson said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 4:30 pm

    I'm very curious what C.-S.-S.-C.-P.-S.-G. and D.-C.-C.-S. mean.

  12. Ted said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 6:42 pm

    @Rod Johnson: That's explained on the first page of the pleading, where it says FOR THE TERMS OF THIS C.-S.-S.-C.-P.-S.-G.-NOW-TIME-VESSEL-COURT-DOCUMENT: (which I think translates to something like "Defined terms for purposes of this document"). I'll let it speak for itself:



    If I understand correctly – and, strange to say, this does seem to begin to resolve itself into some sort of underlying pattern if you read it long enough – C.-S.-S.-C.-P.-S.-G refers to utterances that are correctly formed according to Miller's syntax. D.-C.-C.-S. is a citation marker, used to reference sections of the United States Code while taking issue with their validity. An utterance in the form TITLE-~15: D.-C.-C.-S.-~78~FF, for example, refers (rather incongruously) to Section 32 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which is codified as Ttile 15, Section 78ff.

  13. Maxim said,

    February 17, 2012 @ 2:48 am

    Does this remind anyone else of TimeCube?

    I would pay good money to listen in on a conversation that ensues if Gene Ray and David-Russell: : Myrland ever end up in the same room. Perhaps an improvement on the current format of the presidential debates?

  14. J.W. Brewer said,

    February 17, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

    The complaint itself, when one skips over its peculiar compound-word coinages (which in many instances sound like an attempt to calque standard legal jargon of French/Latin origin into some other language variety deemed more appropriate), has a certain resonant rhythm that is reminding me of some of the poetry Kit Smart wrote while locked up in Bedlam, although without, you know, the strange beauty and hallucinogenic perceptiveness of Smart's work. But I was also interested to see that the incomprehensible complaint (linked in the original post) has attached as exhibits two totally normal legal documents (a criminal complaint against Myrland and subsequent plea agreement regarding those charges) which have been comprehensively "parsed" – i.e. marked up word-by-word to show parts of speech and verb tenses. I don't have time to work through the parsing to see if it accords with standard grammatical analysis, much less to work out its implications (I am guessing the grammatical analysis supposedly somehow proves the guilty plea and/or underlying prosecution was not valid?), but someone with more time on their hands might want to take a look at that.

  15. army1987 said,

    February 18, 2012 @ 9:43 am


    Me too!

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