Word of the Monday, April 8. 2013: “Sequester”



verb [ trans. ]
1 isolate or hide away (someone or something) : Tiberius was sequestered on an island | the artist sequestered himself in his studio for two years.
2 take legal possession of (assets) until a debt has been paid or other claims have been met : the power of courts to sequester the assets of unions.


“Sequester” is a late Middle English word, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which derives from the late Latin word “sequestrare,” which in the dead language’s context means to “commit for safekeeping” as the dictionary also lists that the word comes from the Latin for “trustee.” I’ll forgo over-explaining the irony of those meanings when applied to the state of the schizophrenic, drunk-rat minds who run this nation.


While technically correct, the word “sequester” does not do much justice in describing the raw skin tear it’s ripped into America. It is not an ugly word, or four-lettered, or evocative. It doesn’t cause average people to hurl or wince (though it might soon), or feel the kind of frustrated, sick-as-shit emotional state that under or unemployment can drill into a person. It doesn’t describe the way that a proud animal slumps and leans after taking a bullet not large enough to kill it, or aimed well enough to make for a merciful death. And it definitely does not bring to mind with any accuracy the faces and expressions of the people it affects.


“Sequester” is a simple word that now has new complexities festering in the history of the way we use it. Since it is Latin, the word does not have much of an image, as Latin words tend not to. Latin words work “above the neck” so to speak, while anglicized words work with images. The difference is why most academics are about as interesting with their use of language as a dried up sesame seed bun slow-roasting on a sidewalk in May. We unconsciously understand this in the way we tend to choose anglicized words like “sharp” or “wild” over Latin words like “acrid” or “feral”.


The problem with the word is the way that it’s being used to describe a sloppy round of budget cuts that look much more like holding a person down and chopping his or her arm off with a dull piece of sheet metal at an arbitrary point somewhere near the elbow than the act of “isolating” or “hiding away” costs and benefits for federal workers.


But when a word is used ineffectually and by people who don’t think through their ideas, who say things like “I’m going to get to the bottom of this situation” when they mean “bottle” without any sense of irony, and who dangle postures in front of cameras for their imagined notions of their electorate… everyone gets dumber.


Perhaps I just hate the word, but what it now makes me think of has nothing to do with its meaning, and a lot to do with people who have messed up, keep messing up, and show no signs of giving up what has for a long time appeared to be a depressingly impressive effort to drag the image of this nation over mounds of corn-pocked crap and call it an herbal mudbath.

by & filed under Arts & Music, Litra'ture & Poetry, Top Stories.