Axl Rose’s Latest Lawsuit Teaches Us All About the Difference Between Oral and Verbal

Axl Rose has no problem using the word oral. So, why do you?

Rolling Stone reports that

Axl Rose’s former managers have slapped him with a roughly $1.9 million lawsuit that claims the Guns n’ Roses leader reneged on a verbal agreement from 2008.  The $1.9 million represents the 15 percent commission Irving Azoff’s Front Line Management was promised of the estimated $12 million Gn’R have earned so far in their tours of Southeast Asia, Canada and South America.

The article refers to an alleged “verbal agreement” between Axl Rose and his former manager.  But what in the world is a verbal agreement?

According to Garner’s Modern American Usage, third edition (“GMAU3”) verbal means:

(1) of, relating to, or expressed in words, whether written or oral; or (2) of, relating to, or expressed through the spoken word.

And oral means:

(1) of or relating to the mouth; or

(2) of, relating to, or expressed through the spoken word.

As the GMAU3 notes “many regard sense 2 as the exclusive province of oral, preferring that verbal not be used in this way.”

And as such, because the Axl Rose agreement was spoken, as opposed to written down, it should be referred to as an oral agreement, not a verbal one.

The GMAU3 sheds light as to why people may refrain from using the phrase oral agreement —

In recent years, some people have said that they feel awkward using oral because of prurient connotations; that is, the word seems most often to appear in the phrase oral sex — so much so that oral by itself connotes fellatio or cunnilingus.

And the GMAU3 suggests that

[i]f you think of oral in a narrow sexual sense, you should immediately wash your mouth out with soap.  Otherwise, we may be in danger of losing a perfectly good word.

The failure of the journalists to correctly refer to the Axl Rose agreement as an oral agreement is truly disappointing given that Axl Rose is an anagram for oral sex, and not verbal sex.

So, what can you do to save the word oral from extinction? Next time you hear someone use the phrase verbal agreement, be as snarky as you can and feel free to set them straight.  At depositions, lawyers frequently confuse the words verbal and oral.  They often instruct the deponent to answer verbally because the court reporter cannot record head nods.  If your opponent makes this mistake, you should mercilessly correct them.

You can also use the Axl Rose anagram to help you remember the difference between oral and verbal:

Axl Rose likes oral sex.  If you ask him about it, he will be happy to tell you all about it orally.

Photo Credit:


~ by siouxsielaw on March 28, 2010.

One Response to “Axl Rose’s Latest Lawsuit Teaches Us All About the Difference Between Oral and Verbal”

  1. A verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it is written on.

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