Al Gore   Letter 05   06-Sep-2000   A Latin lesson
"Like California, Nebraska, Tennessee all of them combine to make up the United States of America." Lubomyr Prytulak
September 6, 2000

Al Gore, Vice President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC    20500

Al Gore:

I find on the Internet that you are credited with having said "We can build a collective civic space large enough for all our separate identities, that we can be E PLURIBUS UNUM OUT OF ONE, MANY."  However, that is not what E PLURIBUS UNUM means, and I can show you how you can tell that without being a Latin scholar.

In the first place, the Latin E or EX means OUT OF or FROM.  That's not hard, because that's pretty much what EX means in English as well, and can be found lending this meaning to words such as EXIT and EXODUS and EXURB.  The tricky part, I suppose, would be knowing that E is a variation of EX.  In English, the prefix E with the meaning OUT OF can be found in the word EDUCATE, which originates from the Latin TO LEAD OUT OF, meaning TO LEAD OUT OF IGNORANCE.

Next we come to the second Latin word, PLURIBUS, which is not hard, because it makes us think of PLURAL, and so can only mean MANY.

Finally, we come to the third Latin word, UNUM.  Again, this doesn't give us much trouble, as it resembles words like UNIT, UNION, or UNICYCLE, and so it obviously stands for ONE.

Putting it all together, we arrive at OUT OF MANY, ONE.

And so now there remains only one question what does it mean?  It stands for OUT OF MANY STATES IS CREATED ONE NATION.  Like California, Nebraska, Tennessee all of them combine to make up the United States of America.

This motto not only appears on the Great Seal of the United States, but is widely disseminated, even beyond the borders of the United States.  Even up here in Canada, for example, I pull some change out of my pocket, and as expected I find an American Lincoln cent and right on it I can see E PLURIBUS UNUM.  I look at an American one-dollar bill which I find in the house, and there it is again, E PLURIBUS UNUM it's written on the ribbon that an eagle holds in its beak.  You see, it's everywhere.

It is important for you to get the meaning of E PLURIBUS UNUM right for several reasons.  Getting it right leaves the impression that you have an understanding of the everyday things in your environment.  Getting it right leaves the impression that you are able to rely on common sense to solve a simple language riddle.  Getting it right leaves the impression that some of your advisers are educated enough to stop you from appearing to suffer from a deficit in both education and common sense.  Getting it right leaves the impression that you are familiar with the sentiments that inspire the nation which you hope to lead.

Lubomyr Prytulak