Inaugural Balls: For the Birds?
The upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama allows us to have a quick lesson in Roman history. Though its precise etymology is disputed, "inauguration" is generally believed to come from the Latin for "directing the birds."
Birds were very important to the Romans for foretelling the future and discerning the moods of the gods: the way birds flew, what they ate, how they ate. (It was considered a good sign if food dropped from the beaks of the sacred chickens as they were fed. Yes, there were sacred chickens.) You still might say, after some mishap, "This doesn't augur well." Or, you might say that if you were, like me, kind of pretentious. To inaugurate means to prophesy about the future, something the Sunday morning pundits love doing.
Frankly, I know more about Roman augury than I do about American inaugurations. I think that's because inaugurations aren't really the province of the non-political native Washingtonian. They're for the party faithful, the monied supporter, the hopeful office-seeker.
Or are they? The balls might be tough to get into but anyone can watch the inaugural parade, right? Won't this particular inauguration draw all sorts of interest among natives and outlanders alike? And you better believe The Post will be printing a special keepsake inaugural edition. Please share your past inaugural experiences, starting with this simple survey:
And now a question about the future:
I haven't decided yet what I'm doing. I'll keep my eyes on the sky--and on the sacred chickens. What about you?
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