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Source: Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company [1892], judgement of Bowen LJ

A further argument for the defendants was that this was a nudum pactum - that there was no consideration for the promise — that taking the influenza was only a condition, and that the using the smoke ball was only a condition, and that there was no consideration at all; in fact, that there was no request, express or implied, to use the smoke ball. Now, I will not enter into an elaborate discussion upon the law as to requests in this kind of contracts. I will simply refer to Victors v Davies[8] and Serjeant Manning's note to Fisher v Pyne,[9] which everybody ought to read who wishes to embark in this controversy. The short answer, to abstain from academical discussion, is, it seems to me, that there is here a request to use involved in the offer.

'this controversy' isn't physical, so why in? Should the preposition be on/upon instead?

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  • An ngram search will show that embark in was common in the mid 19th century, and thereafter began to decline. Around 1910, embark on and embark upon began to overtake it.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 11:51
  • books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 11:51
  • 2
    Why should "in" be more 'physical' than "upon" or "on"? You can engage in a discussion. (Not my downvote, BTW. Not this time, anyway.)
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 12:06

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In the end it does not really make too much of a difference, but I would think "in" would be right here. This is because a controversy, in this context is seen as a argument or debate. You have to be "in" the argument, not on or upon it.

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