there seems to be no good answer to the origin of “kangaroo court” so please let me have a stab at it.
“kangaroo court” is a result of a garbled translation. “category” come from the greek “kategorin”. a kategorin court was seemingly one in which the accuser was the presiding power.
it is easy to graqsp the similarities between “kangaroo” and “kategorin”. the concept remains the same: a one-sided court in which the defendant has no chance. as the idea remained the same the term was mangled over time.
a link to the column:
It’s customary to link to the columns you comment on, killianweir
Can you give me a basis for this assertion? When did “kategorin” courts exist? Where?
Over what period of time?
from the greek. “ho kategoros” lit. “the accuser”.
at www.etymonline.com the entry for “category”:
1588 from M.Fr. categorie, from L.L. categoria, from Gk. kategorin "to accuse, assert, predicate, from KATA "down to + agoreuein “to declaim (in the assembly),” from agora “public assembly.” original sense of “accuser” weakened to “assert, name” by hte time Aristotle applied kategorian to his ten classes of things that can be named. Categorical imperative, from the philosophy of Kant, first recorded 1827.
…there being so many ancient-Greek scholars among the 49ers (and yet not a one of them acquainted with the fact that the customary jargon of our courts derives from Latin and from Norman French).
the 49ers of the gold rush era? the time when people were flocking there from all over the world and ships were being abandoned in harbor because all the hands jumped ship to stake claims? nah, there would be no inter-cultural commingling in such a multi-ethnic environment.
the source cited had a latin angle as well as a french one in addition to the english and greek.
Or maybe… Kangaroo Courts come from the idea that when Australia (which, from what I gather, has lots of kangaroos) was made a prison colony, then a subsequent country didn’t really have that great of a court system; they were all ex-cons and the likes, so they didn’t practice the law justly. Maybe the people who coined the term thought that kangaroos could do the job similarly. (just a guess), makes more sense than the greek thing.
In San Fransico, during the Gold Rush Era, there was a gang of criminals of Australian origin, called the Sydney Ducks.
The Ducks were so outrageous, & the local government so corrupted, that the locals took matters into their own hands, & formed Vigilante Committees.
The above is historical fact.
I suspect that this may be the source of the phrase “kangaroo court”–a vigilante court to try a clearly Aussie crook.
What is your source for this? Where have you seen a reference to kategorin courts?