To quote a certain Teleprompter: "Words. Just words."

Thank you for your historic and unprecedented transparency, Mr. President.


Will you please calibrate and make perfectly clear for us lowly Joes what we should do with our dictionaries? And yes, you did say that during your interview with Chuck Todd about trying KSM in a civilian court. The only difference between you, Eric Holder, and Robert Gibbs is that you use a teleprompter every chance you get (and for good reason).


What is a tax?

Obama: George, the fact that you looked up Merriam’s Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you’re stretching a little bit right now.  Otherwise, you wouldn’t have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition. I mean what…

What does: “[N]one of the funds…may be provided to ACORN” mean?

Holder: In accord with established interpretive principles for resolving such lack of clarity, we conclude that section 163 does not direct or authorize HUD to refuse payment on binding contractual obligations that predate the Continuing Appropriations Resolution.


To be sure, some common definitions of “provide,” such as “supply” or “furnish,” American Heritage Dictionary 1411 (4th ed. 2006), would appear to describe any transfer of funds, presumably including a transfer in satisfaction of an existing obligation. Other definitions, however, connote a discretionary action. For instance, “provide” may mean “contribute,” Webster’s New International Dictionary 1994 (2d ed. 1958), or “make available,” American Heritage Dictionary 1411 (4th ed. 2006), and “offer” is among its synonyms, Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus 780 (3d ed. 1995). And in common parlance, the verb “provide” frequently describes discretionary action taken to benefit another. Moreover, several of the word’s definitions incorporate a forward-looking aspect, see, e.g., Webster’s New International Dictionary 1994 (2d ed. 1958) (“to look out for in advance”; “to prepare”); Black’s Law Dictionary 1224 (6th ed. 1990) (“[t]o make, procure, or furnish for future use, prepare”), consistent with the etymology of “provide,” which derives from the Latin providere, meaning to see before, foresee, or be cautious, 12 Oxford English Dictionary 713 (2d ed. 1989). Definitions of the word “expend,” we note, do not carry a similarly discretionary or forward-looking connotation, in keeping with the etymology of that word, which comes from the Latin expendere, meaning simply to pay or weigh. 5 id. at 561.


Against this background, we find that the relevant text of section 163 is not clear with respect to the precise question before us.