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On October 13, 1944, the Durham (NC) Sun reported that a Durhamite had been brought before Judge Wilson in traffic court for having parked his car on a restricted street in front of a sign that read “No Stoping.”

Rather than pleading guilty, the defendant argued that the missing letter in the sign meant that he had not violated the letter of the law. Brandishing a Webster’s dictionary, he noted that stoping means “extracting ore from a stope or, loosely, underground.”

“Your Honor,” said the man, “ I am a law abiding citizen, and I didn’t extract any ore from the area of the sign. I move that the case be dismissed.” Acknowledging that the defendant hadn’t done any illegal mining, the judge declared the man not guilt and commented “Since this is Friday the 13th, anything can happen so I’ll turn you loose.”

From Anguished English, An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language by Richard Lederer

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