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Most people are familiar with one meaning of the verb acquit, i.e., to be found to be not guilty in a criminal case before the courts. I find it interesting that more people are probably familiar with this meaning of acquit than are familiar with the meaning of the word larceny.

This tells me that more people are worried about whether they will be being set free if they are charged with a crime than they are about committing the crime of larceny. Is that a good thing or do people just have reason to fear that they will charged with a crime at some time in their lives and therefore, they are particularly interested in the verb acquit?

It also concerns me that more people are likely familiar with the law-based definition of acquit than its other meaning, which is to conduct yourself in a particular manner. That particular manner is usually good because, much to my surprise, most people are generally polite. You will, therefore, often here people say something to the effect, “she acquitted herself well.”

In contrast, you rarely here someone say anything to, “he acquitted himself like a real jerk,” even if that’s true. People might not say that sort of things as “acquitting one’s self well,” but it is still correct usage of the word acquit even if Little Miss Manners wouldn’t approve of you using it that way.

To hell with Little Miss Manners! What does she know about the vile human nature that does, let’s admit it, exist in a few people? If she’s as courteous as she claims to be I suspect she knows nothing about it. Nobody could be consistently that courteous if they did.

As an aside, I’m not a lawyer and I’ve never been charged with a crime, nor do I ever expect to be a lawyer or charged with a crime, so it’s likely that I don’t know what I’m talking about, but if you are ever charged with a crime I suspect it’s a good ideal to acquit yourself well in front of the jury if you want to be acquitted.

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