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The lowdown on the Red Chamber
Feb 28, 2013
In 1903, U.S. Senate chaplain, Edward Everett Hole, was asked if he prayed for the senators. The good reverend replied, “No. I look at the senators and I pray for the country.”
Clergymen are probably praying for Canada following the recent behaviour of some of our senators. 
The word senate is Middle English, taken from the Old French senat. French lifted it from the Latin senatus (council of old men). Senatus, itself, comes from senex, the Latin for “old.”
We first find senate in English in 1586, but the idea of a senate is much older. Ancient Rome had a senate and senators.
The Roman Senate was a body of men whose duties were both legislative and administrative. That is, the Roman Senate not only made laws but also put them into practice. In the beginning, this body was elected by the patricians. Later, some members were appointed.
A patrician was a member of the nobility. A senator was one who sat in the senate. Today, such a senate might be called, “a council of elders.”
Senators are not unique to the government of a country. The governing board of many universities is officially known as a senate.
The idea of age in words sharing senate’s root is very clear. For example, senile, senior and seniority all are from the Latin senex.
Senile, in English since 1661, originally meant, “belonging to, suited for, or incidental to old age.” Today, we use senile only in reference to the mental deterioration that often accompanies aging.
Senior, from 1612, is both an older person and one whose rank or tenure is lengthier than someone else’s. Seniority, 1450, refers to priority of birth, age, or tenure.
Humorists recognize this language connection between age, dotage and senate. Thus, many jokes exist about senators and old age-related incompetence. Let’s enjoy a few of these:
• Physician to patient: “We do have a brain stem available for transplant, but it belonged to a senator.”
• The world was created in six days, no Senate approval being necessary.
• “That idiot commentator on the CBC said senators aren’t worth their salaries,” fumed the senator. 
“Oh, don’t pay any attention to him,” the senator’s wife said. “He just repeats what everyone else is saying.”
• Jones: “Your brother was really lobbying to get appointed to the Senate. What’s he doing now?” Smith: “Nothing. He got the appointment.”
• What do you call a senator with half a brain? Gifted.
• Auditor to Senator: “We can’t approve your travel expense account but we’d like to buy the fiction rights to it.”
• “I’m glad to see you,” the MP told the Senator. “There’s a rumour going around that you’re dead.”  
“I heard that rumour myself,” the Senator replied, “But when I checked it out, I found it was some other guy.”
• What’s the difference between a Canadian and an American senator? In the U.S., you have to win an election. In Canada, you have to lose one.
• What’s the difference between a senator and a prostitute? The prostitute gives value for the money she takes.