Word of the Day: Invigilate

Word of the Day

Today’s word of the day, thanks to the joint BBC and BBC America television series Ripper Street, is invigilate. Invigilate is an intransitive verb (so it does not take a direct object) which means “to keep watch, or British. to keep watch over students at an examination” (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/invigilate?s=t). According to www.etymonline.com, the word first appears in English in the 1550s but is archaic. It comes “from Latin invigilatus, past participle of invigilare ‘watch over, be watchful, be devoted,’ from in- ‘in’ (from PIE root *en ‘in’) + vigilare ‘to watch, keep awake, not sleep’ (from PIE root *weg- ‘to be strong, be lively’). In late 19c. especially in reference to student exams.”

I’ve been paying attention to the current presidential race. Perhaps you have, too. Today, one of the Democratic candidates was asked about his proposal about gun control. Here is one description of the encounter: “Cellphone video of the encounter shows a bearded man in a hard hat accusing Biden of ‘actively trying to end our Second Amendment right and take away our guns.’ Biden denied the charge. ‘You’re full of [****],’ he said. ‘I support the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment, just like now, if you yelled fire, that’s not free speech…I have a shotgun. I have a 12-gauge, a 20-gauge. My sons hunt…. I’m not taking your gun away at all’” (https://reason.com/2020/03/10/biden-likens-owning-an-ar-15-to-falsely-shouting-fire-in-a-crowded-theater/).

But the candidate is advocating that certain currently legal firearms must be either turned in or registered by the federal government. Now, here’s the thing. Many, perhaps millions of, Americans currently own the kind of “assault rifles” that the candidate would restrict would be unlikely to register them with the federal government for fear that the next step after registration would be confiscation, or forced buy backs. The fear may or may not be legitimate, but the possibility of confiscation would increase with registration.

Now, one may agree or disagree with the confiscation of “assault rifles.” One may think that such “assault rifles” are dangerous and should be banned because they are, according to some, the weapon of choice for mass shooters. Or one may think that a weapon that is responsible for only 0.4% of all gun deaths in America, as opposed to the hand guns which are responsible for far more, does not need to be banned, especially since the overwhelming majority of owners of these so-called “assault rifles” never do anything illegal.

But whether one agrees with the candidate or not, one would have to agree with this: in order to make any kind of gun registration or gun confiscation work in the United States of America, the federal government will have to engage in large-scale surveillance to determine who has one of these unregistered or un-confiscated weapons. Now, in some respects such a major effort by the federal government can be accomplished; we know that because the federal government has already been engaged in large-scale surveillance of American citizens.

In other words, whether for good or for ill, if this gun registration or confiscation ever happens, there will be a whole lot of invigilating going on.

The slightly edited image today is from pinterest. It’s cute, but the potential of it is actually kind of scary.

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