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Christophe Grandsire scripsit:

> Since in so many different languages it's "confirm" rather than "prove"
> (IIRC so it is in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese - Jan, what about Polish?
> and maybe Russian? -), I'd rather think that the use of "prove" in the
> English expression is the exception rather than the rule here. And as I
> said before, "confirm" makes much more sense than "prove" anyway (the
> correct origin of the expression indeed maps quite well my description with
> "confirm").

The legal concept goes back to at least Cicero[*], but the familiar terse
formulation is first found only in the 17th century, and then it takes the
form of "Exceptio figit [rather than probat] regulam", where "figit"
can only mean "fixes, determines, establishes".

See http://alt-usage-english.org/excerpts/fxtheexc.html

[*] "Quod si exceptio facit ne liceat, ubi [non sit exceptum, ibi] necesse
     est licere."  --Cic. pro Balbo, 32

--
John Cowan  [log in to unmask]  www.reutershealth.com  www.ccil.org/~cowan
"The exception proves the rule."  Dimbulbs think: "Your counterexample proves
my theory."  Latin students think "'Probat' means 'tests': the exception puts
the rule to the proof."  But legal historians know it means "Evidence for an
exception is evidence of the existence of a rule in cases not excepted from."