Sunday, October 11, 2009

Nobel Peace Laureate--President Barack Obama

Welcome back fans of Latin roots as they relate to English vocabulary words, and great talks about life-changing books, with a focus on great literature! In this series that I'm offering, I am expounding upon books that have made an impression upon myself and many other readers, and the Latin root words inherent in their English titles. Today I drift a bit because of the moliminous announcement of President Barack Obama's reception of the Nobel Peace Prize, although I do quote Guy de Maupassant at some length. What could be more profound than that? I will discuss etymology vis a vis "peace" and "president," and then will provide a layman's disquisition on why this was an unbelievably great announcement for this world at this time.

The English word "peace" comes from the Latin word pax, pacis: "peace." You may remember in your history classes the Pax Romana, or the "Roman Peace" under the august leadership of Augustus Caesar, the first emperor of Rome. Pax vobiscum is a favorite Latin phrase, meaning "peace be with you." Other SAT-level English vocabulary words that come from pax, pacis include:
pay: OK, this is obviously not an SAT word, but what does the word "pay" have to do with "peace"? Try not "paying" your bills, and you will see that your life will not be particularly "peaceful." Indeed, to "pay" for an item or a service is to make "peace" with the merchant who provided you with it.
pacify: To "make peace." To "pacify" another is to make her angst towards you dissipate.
appease: To "appease" another is to provide "peace" for him, especially if he is upset about an injustice.
pacific: Generating "peace." Balboa was said to have discovered and so named the Pacific Ocean on a "peaceful" day, and named it accordingly.
pacifist: A "peacemaker." A "pacifist" refuses to engage in warmongering of any kind. Wise idea.
pact: A "pact" or "compact," which is related to the word "pax, pacis," comes through the Latin root word paciscor, which means "to make a bargain" or "to agree." If you make a "pact" with someone, you come to a "peaceful" agreement about terms which are mutually agreeable to both sides. Hence, both "pact" and "compact" are synonymous for "covenant" or "agreement."
The Warsaw Pact, the Munich Pact, and the Mayflower Compact are all famous historical agreements or "pacts."
These are but a few of the more interesting English vocabulary words that are derived from the Latin word pax, pacis; check out more at, the central site for finding out why Greek and Latin roots are the core of the global English language.

President: What, etymologically, is a "President"? The prefix "pre" comes from the Latin preposition prae, "in front of, before;" the stem "sid" comes from the Latin verb sedeo, sedere, "to sit," and the suffix "ent," which is the stem ending for the Latin present active participle (a present active participle is simply a verbal adjective that ends, in English, in "-ing;" e.g.: I saw the boy consuming 50 purple twinkies..."consuming" modifies "boy," and describes an action that is taking place in the present tense); hence, etymologically, the "President" is that leader who is "sitting before" us all, as leader of the nation. Since the United States is arguably the only world superpower at this time, its President is also the leader on a global basis as well. How huge is that?

Well, I would say that it is immeasurably huge, especially in terms of potential. And that fact hasn't gone over the heads of the committee who chooses Nobel prizes either. I believe that President Obama, although some people believe that he "hasn't done anything yet," has the incredible potential of doing so much that no other President before him has been able to do, primarily because of his vast charisma and his incredible, well, fan base. He already has been mending fences through acts of incredible and peaceful good hope is that he will not only bring the wars that plague us all to an end... you're a supporter of the wars. And you believe that our society advances because of them. Please read the ff., written well over 100 years ago by the great French short story writer Guy de Maupassant in his novella "Afloat," which, other than a few anachronisms, could very well apply to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

"Those little infantrymen who are scurrying around over there are as doomed to be killed as that flock of sheep being driven along the road by a butcher. They'll collapse on some plain with their skull cut open by a saber or with a bullet hole in their chest; and they're all young men who could be in their homes, working, producing, doing something useful. Their fathers are old and poor, their mothers have loved them, adored them, as mothers will, for twenty years; and now, in six months' or perhaps a year's time, they'll learn that his son, her child, that big boy whom she's brought up with so much care, at such expense, with so much love, has been flung into a hole like a dead dog after he's had his guts torn apart by a cannonball, trampled on, crushed, reduced to pulp by a cavalry charge. Why have they killed her child, her lovely boy, her only hope and pride, her whole life? She doesn't know...Why? Why? War! Fighting! Slitting throats! Massacring each other! And now, in our day, with our civilization, our great scientific knowledge and high level of philosophy which we think human genius has attained, we have schools where you can learn to kill, at very long range and with great accuracy, a very large number of people with a single blow, kill poor, innocent devils with family responsibilities, and not be charged with any crime."

Now we see why the highly charismatic President who has 7.5 years left in the White House has been given the clout and the cachet of this laud: the Nobel Peace Prize.

May he use it well. To find a peaceful solution to the madness that goes on, and has continued going on, through the centuries that humans have graced this planet. I am a big fan of Star Trek, and hope that, as happened in that series, that our world will have banished such insanity in the 21st century.

Fascinated with English vocabulary words? Want to pick them apart into their constituent Greek and Latin roots? Want to know even more SAT and GRE words that come from the Latin root words sedeo, sedere: to sit? Or the prefix "pre," "before"? Studying hard for the SAT or GRE verbal section, and just can't get a handle on all of those vocabulary words, which are truly legion? Check out, where you will find the most comprehensive Greek and Latin roots dictionary available today, and also the most's in full color, and artistically designed. There's even a Greek and Latin roots poster available, which nicely illustrates the full power of what Greek and Latin root words can do for you.