Punning (upon) “Government”

· Etymology


This article has the purpose presenting, both in hypothesis and in humour, ideas about the origin of the word government in 4 major languages – English, German, Russian, and Spanish.  The results can then be applied to other Romance and German tongues, more in jest than in fact.  It is the result of trying to find words beginning with the Semitic consonant “’a(y)in”, which is difficult to transliterate.  Our first derivation was one which might especially appeal to Libertarians and perhaps the group known as paleo-conservatives.  It is a way of looking at government, through a false etymology, but simultaneously, with a heavy dosis of truths known to the aforementioned groups.  We then decided to take one idea about how a country should be ruled, and to express the idea mathematically.  This gave the author the opportunity to make a brief statement of his views – with the purpose of avoiding major misunderstandings – and to introduce more examples of paronomasia.

Mathematical Manipulation of a Government Formula

The author wishes to stress that he is on the side of “law and order” in the context of “peace, order, and good government”.  This is a happy ranking of words, because “order” should be considered a consequence of peace – much less than tranquility should result from “ordering” in the sense of commanding.  Good government then is, while absolutely essential, the part of the equation that carries the least weight. This, we believe, implies limited government.  Algebraically,

      p + o + g = h, where “h” is “happiness”.

No cries of “pugh”, no corruption to cause stench!

Should the elements be inverted, thus:

    g + o + p = her, we have various unpalatable results.

The first of these is the action of the Grand Old Party against a female candidate of the opposition.  For readers outside of the United States, this refers to political campaigning by members of the Republican Party against a former first lady of a president from the Democrats. In order to avoid the charge of sexism, we have raised “h” to the power of “er”, or let us say, accidently, her enemies empowered ‘er.

The second is that we have a gopher, in the animal sense, a beast, a beastly government – a Leviathan – creating holes all over the place, like the fiscal one, an abyss.  If small, the hole trips us up, if large, we are on our way over the edge.

The third is “gopher” as found in an old British dictionary, with variant spellings such as found in America, “goffer” or less likely, “gauffer”.  We are thinking specifically of the definition meaning “crimp”, and the resulting expression about obstruction.  This is big government, stifling private initiative.  We could also think of the modern meaning of gofer – all the useless employees of large bureaucracy.

Our same British dictionary gave us the idea for our title, a rare use of the word “pun”, meaning “to consolidate”, originating with a dialectical version of “pound”.  Rather than pounding, we had originally considered “roasting” govenment, and although presidents of the United States sometimes allow the Press to do so, we feel that this is disrespectful.  Whatever reservations one may have about punning, in the major sense that we employ the term here, it has more finesse.

Now, Say “Ugh!”

There is a problem for most Europeans in pronouncing the Semitic letter sometimes transcribed as ‘ayin”.  It is common to Arabic and Hebrew.  This sound – impalatable, but not tasteless – though tasteless to describe – is akin to that of retching. Those who cannot digest these words will never learn those of the Middle East.

We remembered a specific world from the Bible, whether in the Torah or not, we did not investigate, but by all means, in the Old Testament of the Christians.  We learn that the trick to “westernizing” such a word is to have it begin with an “h”, a “g”, or just the first vowel which follows.  The name is עמרי in Hebrew, (عمر in Arabic) variously written in English as Omar, Homer, or Gomer, and while that should bring to mind classical figures such as the biblical character, or the author of the Iliad, it, at best might make us think of Omar Sharif, Homer Simpson, or Gomer Pyle.  This is the only word of which we are presently aware that has 3 ways to rendering into our language.

‘Ayn Cha [ain’t ya] in Favour of the Government?

Applying the principal expressed in the previous paragraph to various combinations of ‘ayn plus vowel plus consonant, we arrive at “guv” of “guv’nah”, or government.  We then thought of the words “’overment” and “hoverment”, which do not exist, but which, strangely enough, in the post-1984 Orwellian world express the reality of the Panopticon – governments with the means to do so are always watching, hovering above us with spy satellites, spy planes, and drones.  As God warned the people of Israel clamouring for a king, the latter, embodiment of government, would lord it over them, ergo, over-ment, hover-ment.  We need not unduly worry about the suffix as used in English – to do so would require some creative etymology, which is best used to consider the translation of “government” in other languages.

If “government” were translated into Spanish as such words as flowering or lineament – florecimiento, lineamiento – we could, incorrectly, imagine the translation gobiernamiento, which is in fact the old world for the current one – gobierno.  The old word is not convenient, for, if a subject of Castille were to say, [warning – invented etymology!] gobernamiento, that is, “goberna, miento”, he would be saying “[s]he governs – I am lying”.  Thus we have, as it were, an instance of forced language change, political correctness in times of old, to prevent people from accidentally slurring the government.

Let us now consider an English name of royal roots, Reginald, derived from the Latin word rex, king, at the same time related to the word for ruling, still seen in “directs”, deliberately chosen for the bad pronunciation “di-rex”.  Reginald for short becomes Reggie, which we will mis-spell Regie in the following paragraph.

Let us take the German word for government, “Regierung”.  We will make another false derivation, choosing to look at it from the point of view of Reggie – “Regie + rung”.  This “rung” is not the past tense of the English “ring”, but the past of “wring”, thus, “Reggie wrung”, or “the king wrung”, like in “the king (the government) wrung my neck for taxes to the tune of 60 per cent of my income”.

To briefly consider the Russian language, we come across words (the precise root is yet to be determined) referring both to truth.  An interesting experiment may be performed by putting the word Правительство into an on-line translator, and seeing how the word changes as the last letters are deleted. The transformations are government > ruler > rules > (and once we get to Прав, we the suggestion Право, rights, law, freedom, and we suspect this to be of the same root as the famous newspaper Pravda, meaning “truth”.  Hence, government is synonymous with veracity.  This is why some legislators do not appreciate consideration of conspiracy theories as a legal right.

This etymological conclusion is backed up in George Z. Patrick’s Roots of the Russian Language: An Elementary Guide to Wordbuilding (Lincolnwood, Illinois: Passport Books, 1989), p. 166, where the root is given according to the above assumptions.


In a time of political correctness, with governments insisting on watching over us authoritavely and paternally, not to mention their working on being informed of every financial transaction in which we are about to engage – from their bounty, presumably, it behooves our masters of the languages that have not yet done so – to remove any trace of double meaning from the word “government”, so that no one would ever imagine any of the above scenarios again.

If many people have read this page, and if it is found in the search engines, the situation is not as grave as described, and a note of thanks may be due to your elected representative(s), if any – or to the benevolence of the non-elected leadership.  Or, perhaps, it may be better not to, lest they may become cognizant of some as yet undiscovered oversight.

January 28, 2016.  Paul Karl Moeller

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