Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bullstrode's Latin Phrase Book: Res Ipsa Loquitur

Res Ipsa Loquitur: This glorious phrase means "the thing itself speaks". In fact, Res Ipsa Loquitur was the original working title for my screen play that ultimately became the moving picture comedy smash “Look Who’s Talking”.

The first reference to this phrase can be found in Cicero's wonderful speech “Pro Milone”, while its use in jurisprudence can be traced back to Baron Pollock’s wildly controversial 1863 judgement Byrne v Boadle.

Unfortunately, the phrase is generally bastardised these days to mean: "the thing speaks for itself." In both recognising and subtly drawing attention to the manifest wrongness of this colloquial usage, I brilliantly used Res Ipsa Loquitur in Whitelocke: On Lawmanship 3rd Edition (it was redacted in the first two editions) when describing a highly successful ruse I use with my good friend Geoffrey Rush to impress spinsters:

[Transcript from a conversation in club in Perth]

Rush: (Loudly) Excuse me, sir, aren’t you that famous barrister who once bested Sir Garfield Barwick in a university debate, not to mention being largely responsible for the extinction of the Eastern Spotted Quoll?

Whitelocke: “Well, sir, I am a wealthy, famous and unmarried barrister and, yes, if I could be so forthright, I did give both old Gary and those pesky quolls such a flogging that each thought themselves to be a prudish cabin boy on the First Fleet.

* * * * * *

The recognition that this ruse afforded me would have been res ipsa loquitur in Sydney or in London, but in the provinces it served me to good effect.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mr Whitelocke,

    I come at you. Cicero's original use of the phrase was far more glorious than your mistranslation, and perhaps a performance that will forever outdo any screenplay to follow.

    Kind regards


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