Obama Faces First Grammatical Challenge As President

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Grammarians will tell you that sometimes adverb location matters. For instance, “She gave birth naturally” does not mean the same thing as “Naturally, she gave birth.” So we turn to Obama’s oath of office, which was dutifully botched by its administrator, Chief Justice John Roberts. He was supposed to say to Obama, “I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States.” But he actually said, “I will execute the office of the President of the United States faithfully.”

Obama apparently noticed the mistake, and paused before repeating Roberts words, allowing Roberts to correct himself. In the confusion that followed, however, Obama ended up repeating Roberts’ mistake. He said “faithfully” after he said “execute,” not before.

None of this will matter much in the end. And to my ear, “faithfully execute” means the same as “execute faithfully.” (Would anyone disagree?) At minimum, the whole episode can become a Trivial Pursuit question. At maximum, it could spawn a nutty court challenge alleging that Obama has violated the U.S. Constitution by transposing the words it mandates that all presidents speak.

For a full transcript of the exchange, see here. The video follows.