An Inaugural Investigation

Today is an historic day in America, we just inaugurated President Donald J. Trump.  Giving my students a deeper understanding of this ceremony led to some interesting investigations.


Inauguration_Slideshow (this link takes you to a pdf of the slideshow of this investigation)

Clicking on the link above will take you to a PDF of the slideshow I created with my students to help them understand the etymology (historical origin) and the structure of this word along with the many others it is related to — “you buy one base and you get plenty more for free!” (said by a SWI friend–wish I could remember who said it, it’s a great motto). 

Historically, an augur is someone who prophesies good things to come.  It was said that an augur based his predictions on the behavior of birds which may have led to an increase in crops at that time. An augur was someone who paid attention to nature, who noticed when the behavior patterns of these aviaries changed and one who noticed what occurred around him.  He may have been very intuitive to pick up on the tiny clues and was able to predict when it was a good time to plant or harvest crops based on the behavior he noted in the birds.

We talked about how we use this in modern times……even without the aide of television, radio and internet weather channels, we can still notice the behavior of the birds and make predictions today. When I see 20-30 birds anxiously vying for position at the feeder on my deck on a sunny, winter day, my first instinct is to think they are hungry and need us to put more seed in the feeder.  Upon closer inspection, the feeder is full.  I wonder, “What’s up with these birds who act like it’s their last meal?!?”  An hour or two later, I notice that it isn’t as sunny anymore, big, fluffy clouds are moving in and the air feels a bit damp and chilled. I begin to wonder if we are going to get a snow storm; in that moment, I am a bit of an augur predicting the coming storm.  I check the weather report and sure enough, 2-4 inches of snow are due by early evening.  Our little feathered friends were fattening themselves up for the rest of the day so they could huddle in their nests during the storm.

Historically, I’m certain some people were better at noticing things in nature and predicting when it may be a good time to plant crops or increase the harvest before an early winter set in.  People with that sense and skill were regarded highly because of their ability to make nature-inspired good predictions that may bring good things to a village.  Ceremonies, inaugurations were held for all to come and listen to these prophesies based on good omens the augur noticed.

So, how is the modern-day use of this term relevant to its historical use?  The bound base <augur> retains its denotation of “predict, foretell, seer” with the idea of bringing an “increase” or goodness of some sort (denotation of <aug>).  When a new president is sworn into office, he takes an oath, he makes a promise of goodness and truth to the American people during an inaugural ceremony.

We also use the word, augur in examples such as these:  Based on the team’s winning streak, he augurs winning the title.  or  Banks are auguring it is a good time to invest in the stock market. However, we also discovered what it is NOT—see the slide show for that little nugget!

We can synthesize (build) words using the bound base such as:

 augur + ed –>  augured

in + augur + ate –>  inaugurate

in + augur + ate/ + ion –>  inauguration

in + augur + ate/ + ion + s –>  inaugurations

How is <aug> a bit different? It was difficult to determine if these shared a historical root based on the etymology which used words such as perhaps, presumably originally, probably, when describing the history.  I can find 2 Latin roots associated with these 2 bound bases:   augurare (denotation “to act as an augur, predict) and augere (denotation “increase”).  Latin had Latin suffixes that were removed when these came into English (-are, -ere) which leave us with bound bases of <aug> and <augur>.

A bound base is a base that requires an affix (1 or more) to surface in a word; <aug> is in words such as augment, augmentation, and August (I’ll let you discover the story behind that one–click here)!  An augmentation device is one that increases ones ability to do something. We can synthesize words with this bound base such as:

aug + ment –>  augment

aug + ment + ing –>  augmenting

The Latin root augere, is even related to words such as auxiliary (increased support); auction (a sale of increased bids) and author (go look this one up, here)!!  Such intriguing quests….the best quests are those that you go on seeking answers and end up with more questions!  

View the slide show to see both lexical word matrices, word sums, and more about the historic event that happened this afternoon in our nation’s capitol.


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4 thoughts on “An Inaugural Investigation

  1. What a well written unfolding of this family! I enjoyed the narrative as much as I enjoyed the etymological entries and morphological structures. Your slides were a wonderful way to follow your investigation step by step. Thank you for this.

    I especially liked the way you highlighted what ‘aug’ was and what it wasn’t. It’s so important to learn not to jump to conclusions. Beware of wysiwygery! Well done!

    • Thank you for reading our blog and looking at our slide show. We liked that you were looking closely and complimenting on us on what we did. That makes us feel excited that other people are reading our learning. We helped Mrs. Barnett create the slide show. Do you know about the matrices we hang in our hallway? We have a matrix about the word ‘joy’, we found words that shared a root with ‘joy’ and words that did not. Some were a bit tricky because they might have shared letters or sounds but we found they did not share meaning or an etymon. Thank you for looking at our work and have a good day!

      Mrs. Barnett’s 3rd-5th gr. Diamond Group of Buzzing Bees

  2. Lisa Barnett and her buzzing bees this is such an impressive display of your understanding of the word inauguration. I will most definitely be showing this to my Grade 7 Humanities class on Monday here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Keep up the great work and your eyes open for more intriguing words , their morphemes and the stories behind them!

    • Dear Mrs. Whiting,
      Thank you for showing our slide show of the word ‘inauguration’ to your class. We are in 3rd grade in Fenton, Michigan in the United States. We are thankful that you looked at our stuff and you learned from it. That makes us feel happier than ever! We looked on a map to see where Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was. Does your country have anything cool or interesting there? My teacher has read your blogs and tells us about your class’s learning too!

      Mrs. Barnett’s 3rd-5th gr. Diamond Group of Buzzing Bees

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