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Letter to the Editor: 'Inalienable' has a precise meaning

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

To the editor:

I'm an old man. When I was in the third grade, we struggled through the Palmer Method of penmanship, copying in ink such important documents as the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. I have no idea how many times we wrote the phrase "inalienable rights," so you can imagine how I feel watching TV, reading newspapers and magazines or having a politician or a gaggle of university Ph.D.s discuss our "unalienable rights."

While "unalienable" is a word, it was not used in the preamble. Perhaps "inalienable," derived from the French word meaning "that may not be taken away or transferred," was used because the French had helped us gain our freedom from the British.

IRA J. HUDSON III, Mound City, Ill.