It can be very complicated to comprehend our nation’s place in world affairs, and as individuals we must sometimes work to position ourselves in family affairs. Let’s look at a few words that apply to both.

Someone usually heads a country or a family and makes decisions. These resolutions are ex cathedra, a Latin phrase meaning “from the chair.” It describes a pronouncement from the seat of authority. When there is objection to that “chair,” it takes effort to resolve misunderstanding and come to entente. Taken from the Old French “entendre,” which means to understand, entente is an understanding between nations — or family members. And once this coming together is reached, we can have détente, a French word for lessening of tensions between nations or family members.

One who rebels against authority is an insurgent. This also applies to one who does not conform to his political party — or family. And if one does not adopt the approved protocol, or rules of diplomatic (or familial) etiquette, sanctions may be in order.

While a sanction is normally formal approval, government sanctions are quite the opposite. When a nation violates international law, other nations may invoke sanctions to lead the violator back on track. Sounds like a teenager to me. Don’t many of them lose privileges in an effort to remind them to follow rules?

Your family may be ruled by the iron hand of totalitarianism, which centralizes government and subordinates each citizen to the state (remember “Father Knows Best”). Or maybe your nucleus creates more a plebiscite. A plebiscite is a nationwide vote, giving everyone a say in governing or leaders.

Whatever our country’s government or our family’s hierarchy, it should be guarded against sabotage. Derived from “saboteur,” this French word referred to the clatter of wooden shoes (sabots), thus to work clumsily. About 1910, the word appeared speaking of workers rebelling against their employers. During WWI, it added the reference of hindering a nation’s war efforts.

So whether considering the spectrum of the world or your core family life, wouldn’t it be great if our ultimate weapon, one for which there is no defense, were just plain love?

— Sandi Ekberg taught high school English in Medford for 30 years, with a special interest in vocabulary, grammar and usage. If you have grammar questions you would like answered, email her at ifixgrammar@charter.net