A couple months ago we wrote about the word pabulum which, on the surface, appears to have a straightfoward meaning, but has an ironic barbed point under the surface. This month's word, "leguleian," is very similar.
Take a quick stab at the general meaning of this word, based on the first two syllables. Did you guess that it has something to do with the legal system? If you did, you were right on the money.
Leguleian is a fancy word for someone who behaves in a "lawyerly fashion," or "like a lawyer."
That's all fine, but you might wonder . . . how does a lawyer behave? What exactly is the under-the-surface meaning of this fancy word?
To learn the answer to that question, we have to look at a word that is often listed as a synonym of leguleian: pettifogger.
Pettifogger is another fun word, and its meaning can also be partially deduced from the first two syllables. A pettifogger is an inferior-quality lawyer who takes on petty cases and uses ethically dubious methods to win. In other words, a shyster.
Thus, leguleian can be used in a couple different ways. It can be used unironically to state that someone is a lawyer, and behaving like a lawyer, or it can be used in a more insulting way to indicate that a lawyer is actually a crook.
Pay close attention to the context to determine the actual meaning!