Sentences — January 19, 2009, 12:23 pm

Ratyfeit and Found Gude

It occured to me this morning that tomorrow’s key word, “inauguration,” might merit scrutiny. Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary gives a typically terrific definition (of the verb):

INAUG’URATE, v.t. [supra.] To introduce or induct into an office with solemnity or suitable ceremonies; to invest with an office in a formal manner; a word borrowed from the ceremonies used by the Romans when they were received into the college of augurs. Kings and emperors are inaugurated by coronation; a prelate, by consecration; and the president of a college by such ceremonies and forms as give weight and authority to the transaction.

The Oxford English Dictionary Online, based on the 2 ed., 1989, offers an etymology of the noun:

[ad. L. inaugurtin-em consecration or instalment under good auspices or omens, n. of action from inaugurre: cf. F. inauguration (-acion), (14th c. in Hatz.-Darm.).]

And then defines it (with, of course, useful usage examples):

The action of inaugurating; formal induction, institution, or ushering in, with auspicious ceremonies.

1. Formal or ceremonial induction to an office or dignity; consecration, investiture, installation.

1569 in H. Campbell Love Lett. Mary Q. Scots App. (1824) 59 Our Soverane Lordis coronatioun and inauguratioun in his kingdom was ratyfeit and found gude. 1575-85 ABP. SANDYS Serm. (Parker Soc.) 56 Eusebius… was appointed to celebrate with a sermon the inauguration of Constantinus the emperor. 1627 in Crt. & Times Chas. I (1848) I. 214 Dr. Bargrave’s sermon at the King’s Anniversary Inauguration, March 27. 1752 J. GILL Trinity vii. 143 The Father’s solemn inauguration of him into his kingly office. 1789 A. HAMILTON Wks. (1886) VII. 44 The day..of the inauguration of the President, which completed the organization of the Constitution. 1822 J. FLINT Lett. Amer. 121 The inauguration of the professors of the university of Lexington occasioned much stir to-day. 1861 MILL Autobiog. iv. (1874) 123, I have always dated from these conversations my own real inauguration as an original and independent thinker.

2. The formal or definite commencement or introduction of a course of action, an important era or period of time, etc.

1856 FROUDE Hist. Eng. I. 292 To the one it was the advent of Antichrist, to the other the inauguration of the millennium. 1872 YEATS Growth Comm. 219 It was the inauguration of privateering.

And two more after that. But it’s difficult to improve upon the simplicity of Samuel Johnson–at least in the edition at hand, namely Johnson’s Dictionary, Improved by Todd, Abridged; for the Use of Schools; with the Addition of Walker’s Pronunciation; an abstract of his Principles of English Pronunciation with Questions; a Vocabulary of Greek, Latin, and Scripture Proper Names; and an Appendix of Americanisms. Boston: Published by Charles J. Hendee, which defines the word thus:

Inaugurate, s., investiture with solemnities.

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Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

At the time, Chomsky was still finishing his doctoral dissertation for Penn, where he had completed his graduate-school course work. But at bedtime and in his heart of hearts he was living in Boston as a junior member of Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and creating a Harvard-level name for himself.

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