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Regardless of why Thomas has been so tight-lipped, everybody's wondering what he meant when he said "well, he did not." (AP Photo/File)

Lost in translation: Justice Clarence Thomas breaks 7-year silence

Justice Clarence Thomas is famously quiet on the Supreme Court bench.

On Monday, he broke seven years of silence, and although no one is 100 percent positive, it was likely to make a joke about his alma mater, Yale.

The actual text of what he said: "Well, he did not."

"Most of us who watch the court closely thought he would never speak again," Dahlia Lithwick a writer for Slate told Luke Burbank.

Lithwick said there are a few different theories as to why Thomas stopped speaking seven years ago. The most polite reason is because during arguments some believe it's rude to talk over the attorney who has been invited in to state their case.

"That's the most generous view," according to Lithwick.

Another reason may be because he's self-conscious about his deep southern accent.

But there is this other theory. According to Lithwick, he might be pouting and it's been some sort of seven-year soak.

"Is this some sort of way of saying to America, I'm just not going to engage, I'm just not going to talk to you all?" asked Lithwick.

Regardless of why Thomas has been so tight-lipped, everybody's wondering what he meant when he said "Well, he did not."

The court was hearing a case on whether someone who had been sentenced to death had a competent attorney.

Apparently before Thomas' four words, Justice Antonin Scalia who was speaking right before made a "jokey" point that clearly this was someone who was competent because they went to Yale.

Clarence Thomas has a long-standing problem with Yale. He graduated from Yale Law School but he's been very clear on and off the bench that it wasn't a good experience. He saw Yale as a deeply shaming affirmative action experience.

Lithwick said in his biography he revealed that he covered his Yale diploma with a sticker, because it was a joke, and he had a "Yale sucks," bumper sticker for quite some time.

Knowing that, Lithwick said, "Some version of the joke is, just because you went to Yale, doesn't mean your competent."

Though, we may never know what he meant for sure, because at least part of his joke was lost in the court reporter's translation.

Alyssa Kleven, MyNorthwest.com Editor
Alyssa Kleven is an editor and content producer at MyNorthwest.com. She enjoys doting over her adorable dachshund Winnie - named for Arcade Fire front-man Win Butler.
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