Sequestration – A Short History of a Long Word (WARNING: NAKEDNESS)

The word Sequestration has been bandied about in the news with such regularity that we asked our interns to provide a brief history and current meaning of the word.

Sequestration was an ancient game in which privileged members of a King’s Court bet on which body part would be severed when a Sword of Damocles fell upon its target, who was usually a member of the unpaid village idiot clan.  Odds tended to favor the body part wincingly referred to as “the Ca”.

Later, in Rome, Sequestration was a bacchanal cult festival held on the day preceding the Ides of March.  During the Ides, nothing was permitted to be done by elected representatives and government funds were apportioned in accordance with the lunar phase so that full apportionment occurred during a full moon, which was considered bad luck because thereafter apportionments faced reduction.  Julius Caesar was apportioned on this day.

Currently, as a political economic term,  Sequestration is a word invoked to describe the most loudly expressed form of faux shock at the extent to which government budget caps are hilariously irrelevant.  As part of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Act of 1985, Congress was prohibited from using public funds to celebrate across-the-board spending that exceeded budgetary caps.  Instead, upon the first full moon in March, Sequestration is marked by a tug-of-war event whereby the 13-letter word is strung out on the floor of the White House rotunda and key naked members from Republican party grab a hold of one end and key naked members of the Democratic party grab a hold of the other end (traditionally, the President anchors his party’s side) and upon the House Speaker’s striking of his “gavel” the two sides pull until the middle t crosses the original placement of either the first s or the last n, at which point the match is declared “ended” and the Speaker puts his gavel back in his pants, the parties put their clothes back on, and all return to the dark recesses from whence they came.  The word is then wrapped in velvet and returned to the Library of Congress where it is cataloged in accordance with the Dewey Decimal System, which – unlike sequestration – is little understood.