Daily Archives: Tuesday, 20 January, 2009

What Book Would You Use?

I’m reading various blogs for news of the inauguration today, and I just found out that Theodore Roosevelt and John Quincy Adams did not swear on Bibles, and Franklin Pierce affirmed rather than swore the oath on a Bible. Barack Obama used the same Bible as Abraham Lincoln.

John Quincy Adams swore on a volume of Constitutional law. I like that idea. So in a flight of fancy, I asked myself, “What book would I swear the oath of office on?”

My first thought was the Hans Wehr dictionary, which continues to amaze me with its wealth of words. That book has meant a lot to me for a long time. My first copy was “pocket-sized,” if your pocket is an extra-large pocket like the biggest ones on the side of a pair of cargo pants, and even then, I’m not sure it would fit. Then I got a much bigger copy, but still green and paperback, and eventually I acquired a hardback version* that’s holding up pretty well. I still have the first one, because it still has a handy verb chart taped to the back, but a few pages have fallen out.

But then I thought harder and decided that if I were to take a meaningful oath that required a book as a prop, the book for me would have to be Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, which I first discovered more than twenty-five years ago and which made a huge difference in how I deal with people and cope with contretemps.

*Disappointingly, not green.

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