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Don't say "garnished," Do say "Garnisheed"

Don't say that: 

Garnished, as in "garnished a check"

Do say this: 

Garnisheed, as in "garnisheed a cheque."

Why?: 

If you order a steak, it comes with a few scraps of salad on the side, right? That's a garnish.

A "garnishee" Order is a court order that is a bit like a Mareva Injunction or a Freezing Order. It applies to a specific type of asset called a "chose in action." A chose in action is, at its heart, an obligation or a debt. In essence, a garnishee Order says that the debt is assigned, by court order, up to a specific value, in favour of a person other than the original payee. Suitable targets include bank accounts and even unpaid salaries.

A garnishee order, then, applies to a payment which is due but which has not yet been made. The correct usage is "to garnishee" and, therefore, someone "garnishees" the asset and the asset is "garnisheed."

It follows then that when you hear someone say they have garnished a cheque, they have put it in a plate with a bit of lettuce. Stupid, isn't it? So don't say it.

And don't use an incorrect word that is sometimes bandied about: "garnishment." It's a Garnishee Order.

Oh, and the check/cheque thing? It's cheque because the word derives from "exchequer" not "checkered" as in a tablecloth. In fact, even that is a corruption, because the whole thing originated with a chequered cloth that was used as an aid in counting money set in piles, like a chess board.

 


 

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