SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
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.
More from Wyatt Mason:
Conversation — October 2, 2015, 8:26 am
“By committing to the great emotional extremes demanded by Greek tragedy,” says Bryan Doerries, author of The Theater of War, “the actors are in effect saying to the audience: ‘If you want to match our emotional intensity, that would be fine.’”
Chances that a Soviet woman’s first pregnancy will end in abortion:
Peaceful fungus-farming ants are sometimes protected against nomadic raider ants by sedentary invader ants.
In San Antonio, a 150-pound pet tortoise knocked over a lamp, igniting a mattress fire that spread to a neighbor’s home.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."