The English common law is frequently referred to as a seamless web; continental lawyers tend rather to think of law in terms of internal coherence and consistency. This is not merely a linguistic fact, and the terms are not simply interchangeable. Each reflects the characteristic mode of thought and of development in its respective system: the common law constantly and gradually emerging as a cumulative historical process; continental law stemming from, and in every case ultimately resting on interpretation of, codes, the product of a moment in history. Thus, although they are both capable of denoting the same idea of wholeness, each term has a slightly different connotative emphasis, the one stressing historical coherence and the other emphasising conceptual coherence.
This is but one example of the proposition that institutions can not be imported wholesale, that foreign legal provisions, and terms of thought and reference, have to be evaluated beyond their immediate superficial appearance before they may be adopted or used as measures for local purposes. All such institutions have both a historical and a contextual significance which makes comparison on the level of one-dimensional questions such as, “Which is the better rule or the more attractive term?” meaningless.