Thursday, July 15, 2010

ab initio



: from the beginning

It's amazing the difference a preposition makes. Here are the results of several google searches and a lack of inspiration:

FROM the beginning: Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, the construction of NASA's Orion spacecraft, and an animated primer on the basics of DNA.

IN the beginning: a fabric store in Seattle, creationism, and a TV film starring Martin Landau and Jacqueline Bisset.

AT the beginning: Richard Marx and Donna Lewis on the soundtrack of Disney's Anastasia, architecture at the turn of the 21st century, and myths about women from the Amazons to the Virgin Mary.

ON the beginning: Carl Sagan, the start of the English novel, and several prepositional misuses of "on" when "in" was really more appropriate.

OF the beginning: mostly a whole lot of "End of the Beginning" and "Beginning of the End."


When I think "from the beginning," I think "from the top," as in musical terms, although despite the influx of Latin in my school band experience I don't remember the term AB INITIO being thrown around. Merriam-Webster tells me the term is mostly used in legal contexts (i.e. things I would never read) and occasionally now as an adjective to suggest "starting from first principles." Think: initial.

Poor Latin. It's the basis of everything but now only makes cameos, like William Shatner selling airfare for priceline. A friend of mine in junior high school took a Latin course. She kept referring to it as a "dead language." If that was the case, I didn't understand why they still taught it, or what use it had for those who could speak it (outside the realm of S.A.T. preparation). Still, I was envious of her. I thought she was in on some secret form of communication that was beyond my fourteen-year-old intelligence.

The extent of my verbal Latin usage is probably et cetera and M.O., which doesn't even really count because it's an abbreviation. Maybe I should start integrating some more. I'll try to take AB INITIO outside of the blog today. Seriously.

Okay, I just said the word out loud to myself and it came out abnetio. A rough start—AB INITIO a rough terrain to my usage of AB INITIO—but I will recover.

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