Monday, August 22, 2011

Look Out! Your Domain Is Imminent!

The Houston Chronicle recently reported that “[Governor Rick] Perry… signed imminent domain legislation because ‘ownership of personal property is crucial to our way of life.’”

What the Texas governor feels is threatening our sacred lifestyle is eminent (not imminent) domain, the right of the government to take private property for public purposes, by virtue of its sovereignty over lands within its jurisdiction. Of course the Gov may be worried that eminent domain is imminent, and he certainly wouldn’t want it to be immanent—that might be treacherous, er, treasonous.

It’s easy to confuse eminent with imminent and immanent, not to mention emanant, especially if you pronounce your vowels with a Texas twang, as the Gov usually does, especially when campaigning in the state for one or more offices.

Eminent, meaning “prominent,” comes from the Latin eminere, which means “to stand out, like a mountain.”  It suggests that the government’s domain, or area of jurisdiction, is superior to that of a private individual.  Imminent, meaning “ready to take place,” usually with the suggestion of threat, comes from a similar Latin root, imminere, meaning “to project, in a threatening manner, like a mountain.”

Neither eminent nor imminent should be confused with immanent (“indwelling, inherent,” from the Latin immanere (“to remain in place”), or with emanant (“issuing or flowing forth”) from the Latin emanare (“to flow”)

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou, whose eminence and immanence may be in doubt, but whose imminence and emanance are both unquestioned, was inspired by the Governor’s views to make this typically insouciant observation:

            O, give me a home
            Where Republicans roam
            And there is no eminent domain.
            Where taxes are low,
            Just like I.Q.s, you know,
            And Rick Perry wins every campaign.

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