‘Ultra Rich’ In America, 1883-Today

Hundreds of the planet’s richest and glitziest will gather today to kick off the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. That said, this week’s etymological adventure revolves around the term “ultra-rich.”

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Make FDR’s Four Freedoms a Reality

While weekend postings are rare around these parts, today’s the 77th anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech, the president’s 1941 State of the Union speech that gave hope to millions living in the shadow of World War II, inspired generations of civil rights leaders in the decades ahead and which spurred painter Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” quadriptych, each of the four images illustrating life filled with free speech, free worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

With our country’s most sanctified institutions and beliefs under assault, with inequality running rampant and national stress levels through the roof, I’ve included the relevant text of that landmark speech after the jump. May Roosevelt’s word come true some day soon.

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4 Timeless Notes From an 1837 U.S. History

Something of a follow-up to that last post, research for book 2 recently led me to Samuel Goodrich’s 1837 title, Peter Parley’s Universal History on the Basis of Geography, a world history that includes some general but timeless thoughts on sustaining the integrity and wherewithal of the U.S. Government.

They seem particularly pertinent to today’s unprecedented times.

  1. We live in a fine country, we have a good form of government, but these will not insure happiness. If the people become indolent, or if they become wicked, ruin and desolation will visit this land. Government may be compared to a house; those who live in it must take good care of it.


  1. …In short, the whole establishment must be taken care of by people who are worthy of being trusted, people who are skillful, and who cannot be tempted to neglect their duty.


  1. If the house is entrusted to careless, ignorant or faithless people, it may take fire, and the inhabitants be burned up. Or it may decay and fall down upon the heads of those who dwell in it…. It may thus become a miserable and comfortless habitation….


  1. It is so with government. If careless, ignorant or faithless rulers are chosen to take care of the country, wars and commotions may follow; poverty and vice may spread over the land; ignorance and misery may take the place of knowledge and prosperity. Thus, the government, which, like a house, is designed to protect us, when ill managed, like a house on fire, or borne down by the tempest, may be the cause of our ruin.


‘Hypocrisy’ is Acting Badly

Now that we’re nearly one year into the Trump presidency, you’ve probably seen a few hundred Tweets, Facebooks, Instagrams, Snapchats, or Whatchamacallits noting how hypocritical it is for Donald Trump to decry “fake news.” After all, this is the man who concocts self-aggrandizing Time magazine covers, the charlatan who claimed for years that Barack Obama was from Kenya, and the ego-maniac who decries chimerical voter fraud to justify losing the popular vote.

But what is hypocrisy? Of course most of us know it roughly means “doing or saying some thing you criticize others for doing or saying,” but the true definition is, as always, more nuanced.

Hypocrisy” as we know it comes from the Latin word of the same spelling, meaning “an imitation of a person’s speech and gestures” and derived from from the ancient Greek word “hypokrisis,” “acting on stage.” You see, hypocrisy was originally a drama term, one initially and specifically relegated to the stage, but which eventually evolved to the more general, pedestrian “pretense.”

This latter lexeme trickled through languages over the centuries, landing in French as the h-less word “ypocrisie,” and then seeping into Middle English around the year 1200 as “ipocrisie,” a term defined in clearly moralistic terms: “the sin of pretending virtue or goodness.” I’ll leave judgement of sin to more qualified entities, but that “pretending virtue” bit is pretty spot-on to what we’re seeing out of the Oval Office.

For more Fun with Words, click HERE.

Collusion Is Not Innocuous

As a follow-up to last week’s etymological dissection of “meddling,” and inspired by all the real news about Russian meddling in the 2016 election, I decided this week to take a closer look at another word frequently used in these stories, “collusion,” as in this Newsweek headline from this morning: “Evidence of Trump-Russia Collusion Already Exists, Watergate Prosecutors Say.” Here’s what I found…

Used in its current form since the 14th century, the Old French “collusion” originates from the Latin collusionem, which comes from the verb colludere, an amalgamation of the prefix “com,” as in “with” or “together,” and ludere, which means “to play” and is the same root for ludicrous. Married into one term, “com” and “ludere” mean, loosely, “coming together to play.”

It almost seems innocuous, and even jocular. We of course know otherwise. As legendary English lexicographer Henry Watson Fowler noted, “The notion of fraud or underhandedness is essential to collusion.”

For more Fun with Words, click HERE.

Two Stories, One National Divide

Two stories caught my eye this morning. One is GQ‘s announcement that Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL footballer who started the knee-taking national anthem protest against police brutality, is their citizen of the year. This is a wonderful honor for a deserving person. And, considering the second article that snagged my attention, it’s more than necessary.

From a Washington Post article called “Tough-talking Sheriffs raise their voices in Trump era:”

[County] sheriffs are mimicking his antagonistic political style, alarming progressives and some legal observers who fear an increasingly undisciplined justice system. Some have even gone to battle with Democratic officials, bucking their “politically correct” policies and using rhetoric that puts some residents on edge.

So, we have county sheriffs, leaders who are supposed to uphold the rule of law and equality for all, pledging allegiance to a man who has no concept of law, order, fairness, justice or inclusion….

We need more sensitive, patriotic Colin Kaepernicks up in here to counter these Trumpian “my un-American way or the highway” tough guys.