Tuesday, November 14, 2006

As I learn more about America,

I can hardly be blamed

for being stumped when people say "I take the Fifth".

I'd been reading a few people using "I'll take the fifth" when answering Memes or fun questionnaires on their blogs or on Myspace, and had been wondering what it meant.

Then I felt better when I read what Wikipedia had to say :

For example, while many people will understand what "To take the fifth" means, very few people outside the United States of America will actually use the phrase as the American Constitution is not extra-territorial. Similarly several British idioms are not well understood in the USA

*suddenly feels a lot of IQ points coming back*

I'm sure David would have loved to have given me a pretty detailed lowdown on that, sweetheart that he is, but hey, I'm sitting right at my computer most of the time, so I snooped around. Okay, so, I found out that this famous "fifth" is actually number five among the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.

The Fifth Amendment states:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

I'm pretty much a foofoo when it comes to big words, so I found a translation I could actually comprehend, and this is what it says :

"taking the fifth" basically means the refusal to testify on the ground that the testimony might tend to incriminate the witness in a crime, i.e. no person is compelled to be a witness against himself.

( Apparently this term became kinda ubiquitous/famous after being used by some crime boss/mafia types, on TV during a Senate Committee Meeting in 1951)

Tennessee Democrat held hearings in eleven cities, and in every one his Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce, better known as the Kefauver Committee, uncovered evidence of mob corruption. "I respectfully take the Fifth Amendment" became part of the public's vernacular as one mobster after another refused to answer the committee's questions.

Having said all that, it is important to remember, though, that no one can conclude that by taking the Fifth, it is in any way an admission of guilt

Kinda like when I get asked if I've been slacking and not studying hard, and I go, "er.. I TAKE THE FIFTH!!"


Palmdoc said...

Thank you for your interesting posts on life in America. We've been keeping tabs and your post on Weeds made it to the Malaysian Medical Resources Blogrounds II ;)

Anonymous said...

I've heard about the "fifth" and i believe we have our own equailvant but I cannot remember what is is for the life of me. Eh!

Laura.Y said...

hahaha that's a funny one! I've never heard of the phrase b4 too. Now I feel like trying it here and seeing blank looks on ppl's face.

Darla, Pencil Portrait Artist said...

I've always taken it to mean "I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may inciminate me"