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.

4 Comments

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4 responses to “What Book Would You Use?

  1. jtothemo

    I love Hans Wehr! I carry my beat up copy around with me everywhere these days. I’m reading it, too, like a total nerd. (Halfway through ba at this point.) It was also the inspiration for the name of my blog. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but it’s dailyarabic.wordpress.com.

  2. mantiqaltayr

    Maybe the US Constitution would be a good document for this.

  3. Roy

    Are you sure that Franklin Pierce affirmed rather than swore the oath of office? I know you’re only as good as your sources, but it was either NPR or ABC News that stated on inauguration day that no president thus far had done that. I almost hoped Obama would. Of course, it’s more likely that the news service got such a thing wrong than that you did.

    • I just double-checked. I can find several reliable sources that say he affirmed and didn’t use a bible. However, this is because he had recently had a personal tragedy, not because he valued the wall of separation between church and state.

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