Sub­poena can­non

The Guardian - Review - - Forewords -

This week the Democrats, hav­ing re­gained power in Congress, promised that they would pur­sue le­gal ac­tion against the pres­i­dent by load­ing a “sub­poena can­non”. A what?

“Sub poena” is Latin for “un­der a penalty”, so a sub­poena, in English since 1426, is a writ re­quir­ing the at­ten­dance of a de­fen­dant or wit­ness at court, or the pro­duc­tion of doc­u­ments. But why load them into a can­non? A shower of burnt con­fetti would seem to help no one.

Can­non (from the Ital­ian for a pipe or tube) are, of course, ar­tillery pieces used in war­fare. The word is also used for ma­chines built to sling ob­jects or sub­stances other than can­non­balls, thus “wa­ter can­non” (in­clud­ing those of the un­us­able type that Boris John­son point­lessly bought for Lon­don), “snow can­non” for ski re­sorts, and the “sonic can­non”, which in­ca­pac­i­tates en­e­mies us­ing blasts of sound.

The metaphor­i­cal in­ven­tion of “sub­poena can­non” ex­pands this tra­di­tion vividly, but for those weary of mar­tial pos­tur­ing in do­mes­tic af­fairs it has a strong po­ten­tial down­side. Trump al­ready paints pol­i­tics as con­stant war­fare. Will Democrats’ ac­qui­es­cence in this pic­ture even­tu­ally blow up in their faces?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.