Faithfully. The most powerful adverb in the free world?

Rarely does a part of speech become headline news, but on Jan. 20, 2009, an adverb became a historic footnote in the inauguration of our 44st president, Barack Obama. Here is the wording of the oath of office, as prescribed by the Constitution in Article 2, Section 1, Clause 8:

‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’”

First, President Obama stepped on Chief Justice John Roberts’ line. Then the Chief Justice misplaced the adverb in the official oath. Then there was a flub, a pause, a course correction, and …

Here’s the transcript sourced from UPI.

ROBERTS: Are you prepared to take the oath, Senator?
OBAMA: I am.
ROBERTS: I, Barack Hussein Obama…
OBAMA: I, Barack…
ROBERTS: … do solemnly swear…
OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear…
ROBERTS: … that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully…
OBAMA: … that I will execute…
ROBERTS: … faithfully the office of president of the United States…
OBAMA: … the office of president of the United States faithfully…
ROBERTS: … and will to the best of my ability…
OBAMA: … and will to the best of my ability…
ROBERTS: … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
OBAMA: … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
ROBERTS: So help you God?
OBAMA: … So help me God.

Many pundits have searched for a reason for the constitutional cha-cha. Was it subconscious? (Sen. Obama voted against Roberts’ confirmation as Chief Justice in 2005.) Maybe. But I much prefer Stephen Pinker’s opinion on “split-infinitive brainwashing” as written here.

January 27 2009 | parts of speech | Comments Off


photo by Bob Adelman

… You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.
You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.

You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve.
You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve.
You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.
You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love …

— excerpt from a speech delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, February 4, 1968. Listen to more of this powerful speech here.

January 15 2009 | parts of speech | No Comments »


Those crazy folks over at the American Dialect Society cast their votes for “word of the year” last week. And the winner is … bailout. They define bailout as “the rescue by the government of companies on the brink of failure, including large players in the banking industry.” Other nominees included change, shovel-ready and lipstick on a pig, according to the press release.

Last year’s winner was subprime.

Let’s hope 2009 ushers in words that aren’t so down and out.

January 13 2009 | news | 2 Comments »


“Buzzwords are what political wiseguys use to sound all important and knowing in a profession whose prime currency is the illusion of being both,” writes the New York Times’ Mark Leibovich in a clever introduction to lexicographer Grant Barrett’s list of buzzwords for the year. Half the fun of this article is looking at how each buzzword is rendered by illustrator/designer Jessica Hische.

As reported in the article, Barack Obama’s amazing ability to power neologisms like Obamanation, Barackstar, and Nobama – just to name a few – has been chronicled by Slate. The online magazine cashed in on the trend with a book.

We note that maverick and obamanos have special resonance for the locals.

Frugalistas take note: clicking is still free.

January 13 2009 | news | No Comments »

« Prev