The Word: Impeachment

The News Story: (as of Noon, April 05, 2016) Robert Bentley, Governor of Alabama, is heard on a recording conducting a sexually blunt conversation with one of his young female aides, Rebekah Mason. Both man and woman denied any sexual liaison. The elderly, divorced Gov. has said he did nothing illegal and has refused to step down or resign. But the good burghers of Alabama, mostly hamburgers with cheese and a side of fries, known throughout American history for their sexual purity and a high moral conduct that might have made Mother Teresa herself blush with envy, are supporting several politicians from Alabaman under-scum (a rather substantial portion of the citizenry) who want to try to impeach Governor Bentley.

Impeachment is the arraignment and prosecuting for an outrageous misdemeanour or crime while in high office any human being. An equally high tribunal of the accused’s peers must try the misconduct. Conviction usually leads to removal from political office. Senators and presidents are likely to be impeached by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Origin of the Word Impeachment
The word came into English after the Norman Conquest from Old French empechement. Modern French is empêchement. Ultimately the noun derives from a late Latin hunting verb impedicare ‘to catch a small animal with a leg trap, to entangle,’  from a Latin noun pedica ‘a foot chain, a fetter, a shackle’  from Latin pes, pedis ‘foot.’

 Related Word Borrowings
The Latin noun for foot (pes, pedis) is the prime etymon (root) of many English words.
The pedal on a bicycle is where you put your foot.
A millipede insect seems to have a thousand little feet. (Latin mille ‘a thousand’)
A centipede seems to have a hundred feet. (Latin centum ‘a hundred’)
A quadruped like a horse has four legs. (Latin quadr- word-forming root meaning ‘four’)
A biped is an animal with two feet, like humans.

A pedestal was first used as a term in classical architecture to name the base or foot on which a pillar stands. Later a statue might stand on a pedestal, or you might elevate in your high regard some hero and they were placed on an imaginary pedestal. The English form is a direct borrowing from French. The French word came from late thirteenth-century Italian piedestallo = Italian piede ‘foot’ + Italian stallo ‘seat, abode, base.’

 A pioneer is someone who performs a notable feat first, like exploring a new country or discovering a new scientific fact. But the very first pioneers were sixteenth-century French pionniers, foot soldiers who entered territory to be fought over before the regular army to prepare their way. Old French was paonier from peon from Medieval Latin pedo, pedontis ‘foot soldier’ from earlier Latin pes, pedis ‘foot.’

Expedient as an adjective and a noun concerns something of advantage to a procedure, a means to an end, not always a noble end. Hence sentences like this: Fred left the patio door unlocked because it was expedient to the later burglaring of the house. The word derives from a Latin verb expedire ‘to facilitate, to make easy, to liberate’ whose base sense is ‘to set free a person from foot chains, to unfetter a horse.’ It was the opposite of another Latin verb impedire ‘to hinder’, from which English gets our verb, to impede.

 Therefore, go forth, gubernatorial persons and handmaidens thereto appertaining, and sin no more.

Bill Casselman

April 05, 2016

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Bill Casselman