The word impeach begins—and can end up—in “shackles.”
The political nature of Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, coupled with Comey’s memo that Trump asked him to “let go” of the investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, are prompting a lot of talk about the I-word—impeachment—over concerns that Trump may have obstructed justice. Time, along with FBI evidence and witnesses in congressional investigations, will tell whether impeachment is called for. In the meantime, let’s have a look at why it’s called impeach.
A week out, Donald Trump’s firing of James Comey, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), has only raised more questions than it answers. In the meantime, let’s put the word bureau under an etymological investigation.
The passage of the Republican bill in the House to repeal Obamacare tees up a skirmish in the Senate—oh, allow me to put aside the newsy connections today, as urgent as the issue is. I’m off to Italy for a week or so.
Italian has given English a wealth of words for music (allegro, falsetto, piano, violin), art (chiaroscuro, virtuoso), politics (totalitarianism and fascism begin in Italian), and, of course, food (pasta, pizza, spaghetti, zucchini). Many of these words, especially the likes of chiaroscuro or pizza, we may recognize, linguistically or culturally, as Italian. But there are many other everyday words we owe to Italian that are hiding in plain sight. Here are a few choice ones:
In a rather imaginative assessment of the Civil War during an interview with Salena Zito of the Washington Examiner, President Trump calledAndrew Jackson a “swashbuckler” who could have avoided the American Civil War. Putting aside Trump’s grasp of American history, let’s get a firmer grasp on the history of his colorful word, swashbuckler.
After some last-minute budgetnegotiations on Thursday, it looks like the US Congress will avert a shutdown and fund the government—at least until they come up to the next brink. Let’s negotiate the origins of these words in a Friday etymological news roundup:
Donald Trump is coming up on his first one hundred days in office, a conventional measure of the initial success of a new president going back to FDR. But with a thwarted agenda, palace intrigue, and some self-inflicted wounds, Trump is pushing backagainst the meaningfulness of this traditional 100-day benchmark. What’s a hundred days, after all? he’s asking. Etymologically, Trump may just have a point: The word hundred is a little trickier to reckon than you may think.
Are you feeling a little hazy after 4/20? Maybe from some purple haze? No, no, I’m sure you were just listening to the Jimi Hendrix song. Well, you’re not alone, as the etymology of hazy is itself quite hazy.
It’s April 20, or as many marijuana enthusiasts know it well, 4/20. Today, especially when the clocks strike 4:20pm, many people will light a joint or smoke a bowl in celebration of the herb. Contrary to all the myths about police codes, the number 420 is variously used to refer to marijuana thanks to a group of Bay Area high-schoolers who would meet at a campus statue after school at 4:20pm to get high and hunt for a secret patch where marijuana plants were growing. The time later went on to become a codeword for marijuana or getting high itself.
That’s the origin of 420. But what about the origins of the day’s honoree, marijuana, and some of its many related terms? I think this calls for a hit of etymology.