Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Daily Hump: We the people...

I'm unique--at least I think I'm unique--because I'm one of the few people in the United States that not only knows the Preamble to the US Constitution by heart, but can also sing it. It's all because of a terrible homework assignment in the 4th grade (my least favorite grade) when we had to memorize the Preamble. I have the memory of a mad cow and thus, it was only by putting the Preamble to song that I was able to commit it to the vaults of my mind. Little did I think that 20 years later I'd still be able to recite
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The Romans had a word, præambulus, which was an adjective meaning "going before." The prefix præ obviously means "before" as pre- does in modern English while ambulus comes from the Latin ambulare meaning "to walk" (ambulance, ambulatory, amble, or pram--short for perambulator). It's therefore no shock that the Preamble to the US Constitution comes before the main body of the Constitution itself.

Interestingly enough in a certain sense constitutional and amble are synonymous. Constitutional is a shortened form of constitutional walk which is simply a stroll taken for the sake of one's health--that is, their constitution. The idea of a constitutional walk first originated at the English universities and constitution itself took on the meaning of health or vitality most likely in the 16th century, 100 years before the word had any meaning as a political document. Constitute is from the Latin cōnstituere meaning to set up, establish or ordain. Con- is simply an intensive prefix while statute is from the Latin verb statuere also meaning to establish or decree. Sta- is the root of the Latin stare, "to stand".

Thus, we can take a figurative amble through the Constitution or a literary constitutional across the Preamble.

constitute [Online Etymology Dictionary]
United States Constitution [Cornell Law School]
constitutional [OED]
constitute [OED]
statute [OED]

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:: posted by David, 8:30 AM


I would like to stand as witness to your Preamble song. For the folks at home, I would like to add that the scoring of this melody would involve a slide whistle and possible a large trombone section.
Blogger Loocite, at 12:09 PM  

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