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Perimeter vs. Parameter — By Tommy Purser

It started in October, 2021. That’s when the March Term 2021 Jeff Davis County Grand Jury returned its presentments as required by law.
Whoever wrote those presentments, and I have no idea who it was, wrote that the Grand Jury members received orientation from the District Attorney “as to its civil and criminal responsibilities, as well as the perimeters of the Grand Jury’s authority.”
Let me write that again:
“…. the perimeters of the Grand Jury’s authority.”
Still didn’t get it?
“…. the PERIMETERS of the Grand Jury’s authority.”
Now, as I’ve said in this space before, I possess a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics and I know well the definition of the word “perimeter.”
I also know well the definition of the word “parameter,” which is the correct word to be used in the above phrase.
Perimeter, as it was used in those Presentments in October, 2021, was the wrong word. It stuck out like a sore thumb when I read it.
But, I was taught early on in my journey as a journalist (pun intended) that legal advertisements should be published in the newspaper exactly, I mean EXACTLY, as they are submitted to us. So, the presentments being a legal advertisement, I left “perimeter” in the presentments.
About six months later, the September, 2021, Grand Jury presented its presentments (again, pun intended) to me and, again, the District Attorney explained “the perimeters of the Grand Jury’s Authority.”
Again, I printed the Presentments as presented to me.
Another six months rolled by and the March, 2022, Grand Jury presented its presentments to me and, once again, the DA explained the “perimeters” of the jury’s authority.
You get my drift here.
This week, the first week of March, 2024, I received the September 2023 Grand Jury Presentments and, still, not one of the dozens and dozens of grand jurors who have served over the years has caught the error.
The definition of perimeter is the continuous line forming the boundary of a closed geometric figure, “the perimeter of a triangle.
The definition of parameter is a limit or boundary that defines the scope of a particular process or activity.
In other words, parameter defines the limit or scope of the grand jury’s authority.
I’m not even sure that’s right. It seems parameters — plural — would be more appropriate. But I’m not going there.

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