Redistribute: What's in a Word?

Words matter. 

And so do the origins of words. 

The English language has one of the largest -- if not the largest -- vocabularies on the planet, which might explain why so many of the leading media pundits have a difficult time pronouncing the word "redistribute."    

But meanings matter more than pronunciations, so we should ask what we mean when we say "redistribute," one of Obama's most deeply cherished yet most rarely used words.

Given our president's two-tiered Ivy League credentials, we should assume that he fully appreciates the etymology involved; namely, the root word is, "Tribute," a word of Latin origin that means

"tax paid to a ruler or master for security or protection," from L. tributum "tribute," lit. "a thing contributed or paid," noun use of tributus, neuter pp. of tribuere "to pay, assign, grant," also "allot among the tribes or to a tribe," from tribus (see tribe). Sense of "offering, gift, token" is first recorded 1580s.

Our first war as a recognized sovereign nation sprang from President Jefferson's refusal to pay tribute to the Barbary pirates based in Tripoli.

Next, we examine one prefix in the operative word, "dis."  According to the etymological source cited above, "dis" means:

"do the opposite of" (e.g. disallow)."

Then "distribute" must mean the opposite of making a payment to a ruler or master; it must mean that those who formerly gave their wealth to a tyrant are relieved of that tyranny, and that title to the property formerly given as tribute remains vested in the original owner. 

But next we encounter the other prefix, "re" which itself modifies the once-modified root word, "tribute."  With this addition we have Obama's complete word, "redistribute."  "Re" as a prefix means:"

"back to the original place, again," also with a sense of "undoing," c.1200, from O.Fr. and directly from L. re- "again, back, against." 

So, when we reassemble the word "Re-Dis-Tribute," we find that Obama promotes a policy that means that tribute must be delivered unto Washington; a tax must be paid to our ruler and master.

It is tyranny as sure as were the demands for tribute by pirates on the Barbary Coast in the 19th century.