I remember being a first year student of law who was required to take a beginner course in Latin. I was elated. After each class, I’ll call my younger siblings and brag:
‘Caecilius est in villa!’ I’ll pompously declare and the accompanying screams only made me continue. Little did they know that I was only reading out the sentences of a comprehension passage learnt in class and that in those moments, I held the book right in my hands while pretending to be making a speech. One day, one of my sisters called and told me that she had invited her friends over from school to listen to her brilliant sister who was soon going to be a lawyer speak Latin. And yet again, chest puffed, book in hand, I declared loudly
‘Caecilius est in villa!’
Perhaps today she will discover that my famous entry line only meant ‘Caecilius is in the house’
One fact I soon discovered however was that it was very necessary as a lawyer to insert Latin maxims while making argument either in court or in writing, however it was not as important as having an arsenal of these maxims ready to dazzle unsuspecting laymen who were privileged to sit at the feet of a learned fellow like ‘me’ while I declared ‘Caecilius est in villa!
Another trick I soon learned quickly was that the more comical a maxim sounded, the more mysterious it seemed and this discovery led me to my next favorite maxim,
Quicquid plantatur solo solo cedit
This Latin maxim is a very common principle of law recognized globally and its meaning is simple. Whatever is affixed to the soil, belongs to the soil.While I loved the ring of the maxim, I was not an instant fan of the implication of its principle.
I remember my lecturer explaining that it meant that whoever had the right of ownership to a piece of land, owned everything that was affixed to it which further meant that
- suppose we had a neighbor in the next compound to us, 🤔
- and suppose this neighbour had an orange tree with branches extending over the fence into our compound🤓
- While I had to sweep the leaves it shed daily to keep our compound clean, I had no right to cut the trespassing branches off 😤
- That however was not the gravest injustice, I also could be in trouble if I ventured to eat an orange if it fell from this tree into my compound 🤯.
I had learned one lesson, while Latin maxims could be fun to brag with, their implications were not always as funny especially if you were not the owner of the tree.