Who uses it: Lawyers
What it means: Latin, "The thing speaks for itself." The common law of torts uses this phrase to describe accidents that were obviously the result of negligence, although it's not necessarily clear whose negligence.
How to use it: When you don't need to explain something. My friend Jen gave me this example: "I come in the living room. Grace (her four-year-old) is the only person in the living room and a picture is knocked over. Even though I don’t know exactly how it happened, it clearly happened. Res ipsa loquitur."
Negligence in preparations for and responses to Katrina? Res ipsa loquitur. The line for resignations should be forming on the right, starting at ground level and reaching high, high up into Washington -- but later, not now. Right now, everybody just needs to keep working at this, until the families are reunited, the bodies are recovered, and the toxic waste is removed from the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
I don't dare turn the Sunday morning TV shows on, because I'll put a shoe through the screen, and I'm a guest here. I have a hard-earned reputation for being a good houseguest, and Michael Chernoff is not going to wreck that for me.
One thing that has been really great is seeing the families of the 9/11 victims and survivors rallying to the needs of Katrina's victims. It's a precarious universe, and everything can change, through no fault of our own, in the space of a minute or an hour or a day. If I thought too much about that, I wouldn't be able to leave my apartment.