For our first assignment in law school, even before any class had convened, we were to read an article that appeared to be written in English – with a soupçon of Latin thrown in for good measure. We all knew, for example, what the word “summary” meant. Heck, in high school and/or college, most of us had probably bought summaries of, say, novels in which we should have luxuriated, but had only two nights to master. Similarly, “judgment” was quite familiar to all of us. But, and some of you are probably way ahead of me here, put them both together, and “summary judgment” is, at best, a distant cousin in meaning to it’s commonly used components.
Because I know some of you will not sleep unless you know the definition of “summary judgment,” a workable definition is this: it is a court’s judgment for one party and against the other party where there is no dispute between the parties as to material fact regarding the dispute or a portion of the dispute. That raises the issue of “what is a material fact,” which leads me back to the article.
As I recall, the article’s author taunted us misguided, over-confident, know-it-all, former skim-the-assignment-and-regurgitate-it-on-the-test kids to persevere even in the face of having to redefine reality. Words we thought we knew had strange meanings and were combined oddly. It sounded like English, but, then again, it didn’t. Towards the end of the piece, the author noted that we had probably skipped over dozens of words and phrases in order to complete the reading instead of dutifully looking everything up. Yup. Guilty as charged.
Eventually, and this means, for me, a few years later, all of those words were part of my everyday lexicon. I didn’t skip any of those semi-English, sometimes Latin phrases; I scoured prior legal opinions and statutes for them. And, in using them, I had lost that “new driver” feeling.
One of the Latin phrases in the article was res ipsa loquitur – meaning: the thing speaks for itself. It’s often used when referring to negligence cases, and – –
OK, I’ll stop with the Intro to Law class.
In my small section in law school, there was a woman who married our Contracts professor after our first year. Inside her wedding band, he had the jeweler inscribe, “res ipsa.” Her finger was too small for the “loquitur” and it didn’t matter. For a bunch of tough, analytical curs, we were all swoony over the romantic symbolism. We’d pass her in the hallway sometimes and greet her with an admiring “Res ipsa, baby!”
Which brings me to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Late yesterday, I made it to 55,142 words of my romance quartet. I haven’t fully digested the experience. I’m going to let the manuscript rest, like yeast dough, for a few days before I edit, rearrange, add to, and punch it down. In the midst of writing 50,000+ words on one story line, several others invaded my imagination. I jotted them down, and refocused.
On the NaNoWriMo website, if you are a registered user (it’s free, and I am), you have the ability to upload your daily word count, and then to upload your novel (it is immediately scrambled and deleted) to have that count validated. You are sent a link to the NaNo staff cheering you with congratulations – it is awesome. Then, you are provided with a link to your completion certificate. Mine is above.
This win was a huge experience and maybe I’ll write more about it later. In the meanwhile, as per my completion certificate, above, res ipsa, baby.