Consul, Counsel, Council

Consul, Counsel, Council

Is a consul also counsel or a council? It never stops to amaze me how “everyone” (sorry about my choice of such a broad concept) seems to remain confused about the main term for a foreign consul. While some people may argue it doesn’t matter if you refer to such an official as “counsel” (particularly if he’s an attorney in his private capacity), I argue that this is like saying it makes no difference if you refer to a tomato as “a red thing” because the latter is meaningless in the legal context of vegetables (the U.S. Sup. Ct. has actually weighed in on this). Similarly, if we call a consul “counsel” (or worse, “council”) we say nothing about the official position the referenced person has.

Two commonly confused terms for a consul are: counsel and council, both with very distinct meanings of their own. You can imagine how excited I was when I ran across a blog post by “WriteJudi” (March 22, 2013) discussing this very item, so I urge everyone to go there for further food for thought.

So, what we need to remember is that Consul is the title of a person. Consulate is the name of the office (“I’m going to see the consul at his consulate today.”) Counsel is what he may give you (“he’ll counsel me on the matter of establishing a business in his country”), and council is a group of people, not just consuls (” the meeting has to be short because then I must leave to be at a council meeting at 4 p.m.”)

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