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“ss.” appears like a sentinel after the name of a Massachusetts county in the caption of a pleading or at the commencement of a notary’s acknowledgment.

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS

Franklin, ss.                                                                                            August 2, 2014

You may have wondered what “ss.” means.

The American Society of Notaries maintains that it is an abbreviation for a Latin term, scilicet, which means “namely” or “in particular”, specifying the required venue element of the acknowledgment. However, Black’s Law Dictionary tells a slightly different story:

“Many possible etymologies have been suggested for this mysterious abbreviation. One is that it signifies scillicet (=namely, to wit), which is usually abbreviated sc. or scil. Another is that ss. represents ‘[t]he two gold letters at the ends of the chain of office or ‘collar’ worn by the Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench. . . ‘ Max Radin, Law Dictionary 327 (1955). Melinkoff suggests that the precise etymology is unknown: ‘Lawyers have been using ss for nine hundred years and still are not sure what it means.’ David Melinkoff, The Language of the Law 296 (1963). In fact, though, it is a flourish deriving from the Year Books – an equivalent of the paragraph mark: ‘¶.’ Hence Lord Hardwicke’s statement that ss. is nothing more than a division mark. See Jodderrell v. Cowell, 95 Eng. Rep. 222,222 (K.B. 1737) . . . An early formbook writer incorporated it into his forms, and ever since it has been mindlessly perpetuated by one generation after another.’ Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 839 (3rd ed. 2011).”

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