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Inaugurate / Augur / August and Fortunetellers

Posted: Fri Feb 27, 2009 11:56 am
by PhilHunt
With the inauguration of Obama as President of the United States I got to wondering about the origin of the word inaugurate. It is obviously a compound of in+augerate, so probably of Latin origin but my searching took me on an interesting journey through the very archaic origins of inauguration ceremonies which still resonate today.

Inaugurate comes from the Latin inaugurare which, as a previous post here states, was the the verb to take omens from the flight of birds. However, this post leaves out the other definition which is 'to consecrate or install when such omens or auguries are favourable' [Chambers]. Our current use of the word comes from this origin.
The augur was a fortuneteller in the classical worlds and was consulted before any major undertaking. In ancient Rome he would have been part of a collegium of priests who advised government officials and could even play a part in their election to office. The augur's role was central to much of Roman society. Chambers points to an origin from the Latin augere, to increase in growth (as of crops) but I have seen other sources which say the origin in not certain.

On a side note, the month of August takes its name from the Latin Augustus which was a month inserted as the eighth month into the origin 10 month calendar in honour of Augustus Caesar. Augustus was the name adopted by Roman Emperors after Julius Caesar from the Latin adjective augustus meaning 'majestic, venerable, worthy of honor. The name literally comes from the sense of "consecrated by the Augurs" or "consecrated with favourable auguries".
Interestingly for such a possibly fortuitous month, there are no major religious or federal holidays in the United States of America during the month of August.

Re: Inaugurate / Augur / August and Fortunetellers

Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 1:02 am
by Daverbal
Somebody was suing to remove the Bible from the Obama's presidential inauguration, and I thought that, if we truly wanted a religion neutral ceremony, then we should also eliminate "augur" because divination has even less to do with installing a president unless, of course, if it involves trying to discern if the official will live up to campaign promises.

So, using this as a genesis for an impromptu salute to religious words in our language, I will simply get some cherries jubilee, sprinkle some filberts on top with a flourish and an "Olé!", knowing that I rely on my talents and not caring a plug nickel what anyone thinks, and so I'll listen to the patter on TV about the latest fashion creations from Paris, and shout "Halleluiah!" because I can see the "handwriting on the wall". (OMG)

Re: Inaugurate / Augur / August and Fortunetellers

Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 8:33 am
by Wizard of Oz
Interestingly for such a possibly fortuitous month, there are no major religious or federal holidays in the United States of America during the month of August.
.. Downunder mate it is Bank Holiday on the first Monday in August .. hmmmmm I wonder what that augurs for ?? ..

WoZ anticipating St David's Day tomorrow

Re: Inaugurate / Augur / August and Fortunetellers

Posted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 2:09 pm
by PhilHunt
I was struck the other day by a common place word in Italian which is very relevant to this post.
If anyone has any Italian family or friends then at Christmas time they'll probably be quite familiar with cards bearing the words 'Auguri'. Its closest meaning is 'Best Wishes' but literally it means 'favourable auguries' to you. I found it quite surprising that this word continues to be used in Italian only in this sense. The verb form has long dropped out of common usage.

Interestingly, the verb continues to be used in English, but, seemingly, usually only when talking about politics.
EDITORIAL: Election results augur well for a thaw in frosty U.S.-Canada relations:
And interestingly it is also the pen name of journalist Vladimir Poliakoff.
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/artic ... 56,00.html

Re: Inaugurate / Augur / August and Fortunetellers

Posted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 4:01 pm
by Tony Farg
Its a shame gdwdwrkr is no longer contributing. I'm sure there would have been some comment made finding holes in all the comments about augurs.

Re: Inaugurate / Augur / August and Fortunetellers

Posted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 6:17 pm
by Bobinwales
Yes, he knew the drill.

Re: Inaugurate / Augur / August and Fortunetellers

Posted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 6:55 pm
by trolley
...and could really turn a phrase.

Re: Inaugurate / Augur / August and Fortunetellers

Posted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 7:32 pm
by Erik_Kowal
But I sometimes had to brace myself for his opinions.

Re: Inaugurate / Augur / August and Fortunetellers

Posted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 7:41 pm
by PhilHunt
Tony, why don't you start the ball rolling by picking away at some of the holes in the comments about augurs. Quite frankly there isn't much information to pick at though. Most of my information is either from etymology dictionaries or encyclopedias. I was hoping that some kind person could contribute more to this thread, but it's been quiet here of late.
I think gdwdwrkr is on sabbatical.

Re: Inaugurate / Augur / August and Fortunetellers

Posted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 7:51 pm
by Erik_Kowal
Yes, he is holier than us.

Re: Inaugurate / Augur / August and Fortunetellers

Posted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 8:03 pm
by PhilHunt
Holier than thou?

Re: Inaugurate / Augur / August and Fortunetellers

Posted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 8:12 pm
by Erik_Kowal
And thou.

Re: Inaugurate / Augur / August and Fortunetellers

Posted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 8:54 pm
by trolley
Gung-holier than I.

Re: Inaugurate / Augur / August and Fortunetellers

Posted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 4:42 pm
by Tony Farg
Sorry, Phil, I really wouldn't know where to start. There were so many interesting posts before I had time to look at this thread that from my amateur position I had little to add but a bad pun.
Didn't mean to screw it up.

Re: Inaugurate / Augur / August and Fortunetellers

Posted: Tue Mar 17, 2009 9:25 am
by spiritus
Daverbal wrote:... if we truly wanted a religion neutral ceremony, then we should also eliminate "augur" because divination has even less to do with installing a president unless, of course, if it involves trying to discern if the official will live up to campaign promises.
I would augur (of course) that the word "augur" has a certain usefulness. Consider the often omitted definition supplied by PhilHunt: 'to consecrate or install when such omens or auguries are favourable'. Now think of the countless political polls and pollsters that might have defined the election. In addition, keep in mind the screwing- over administered to the populace during the previous eight years.