I recently learned a new term, a term that appeared in a Facebook query by a friend (Robert, you know who you are.) The term is “gouge” – not as in price gouging or destroying someone’s eyes, but it is apparently a term originating in the U.S. Navy which originally meant “the answers to the test.” That is, some sort of cheat sheet to help one do well on said test. But, apparently the term has evolved to mean something like “the inside scoop.” Researching the term showed that it is also used by military and commercial pilots looking for a quick overview of a piece of equipment, an airport, or an airline policy. It also appears to be used generally to ask “What do I need to know?” Apparently in declining use, the term brings to mind how often we now turn to technology, like phone apps, to get the inside scoop. Want to know the gouge on where to eat in a new city? There’s an app for that. What to do your homework on a new company where you are applying to work? The internet can give you more information than you want to know. (Though real gouge might involve talking with people who work at that company.) Contemplating gouge in the context of the litigation world, I realize that this is one of the ways lawyers learn their craft – the practice. That is, by sharing the gouge between themselves. This may take the form of “old school” mentorship, or more modern versions of sharing – list servs. We often are asked for the gouge (though never by this term) on venues, how is venue X compared to Venue Y. For example, is Miami that different from Ft. Lauderdale? (Yes.) And, as trial consultants, we seek out the inside information by conducting mock juries, focus groups, etc., often learning the gouge on things never contemplated in advance. There is not a true “copy of the test” for lawyers trying their cases. As valuable as it is to seek the inside information, it does not always come without effort, time and money. But, that does not diminish the value of seeking the information.
I have an excellent vocabulary, however, until I read the title of David’s post, I had never heard of the word, “gouge” defined as “inside information.” I daresay that, once I finish writing this post, I will never again use “gouge” to mean anything other than its common dictionary definitions of “chisel” or “an excessive charge.” However, in order to write my part of this post, I scoured military jargon dictionaries and learned there is a saying, “Live by the gouge, die by the gouge,” which means if one relies solely on something, instead of studying it on one’s own, one had better hope it is correct. Thus, if one merely asks someone whether he/she likes a certain place, would recommend a certain product to someone else, would return to a particular restaurant, etc. one had better ensure one’s source is reliable and accurate. Merely looking at one’s cell phone app is not sufficient to ensure one is obtaining information that is 100% accurate, as there are many factors that must be taken into consideration when assessing accuracy. Applied to our work as litigation/trial consultants, I would never rely on information obtained “through the grapevine,” “on the down low,” or via “gouge” to make any important decisions about a client’s case. Instead, I conduct rigorous, scientifically based research of a case specific nature to ensure I obtain correct results that are both reliable and accurate. To do anything less, in my opinion, would be a disservice to my clients.