Swearing isn't just for presidents and sailorsJanuary 21, 1997
Web posted at: 5:20 a.m. EST
From Correspondent Jeanne Moos
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Be honest: Have you ever taken an oath? Been sworn in? Uttered a marriage vow?
Most of us have, or will, sometime in the future because oaths, those sacred promises of commitment, are woven into the fabric of American life.
The presidential oath of office, which President Clinton has done twice now, is the most famous oath of all.
It's 35 words declaring the utmost loyalty to the United States -- plus four extra words thrown in for good measure. George Washington first ad-libbed "so help me God" at the end of his swearing in, and every president since has copied him.
Cops and mobsters
But presidents aren't the only ones who take oaths. A quick check of people gathering on the Mall for President Clinton's inauguration turned up a slew of oaths in public circulation.
New citizens and police officers take oaths of allegiance and office. Medical students take the Hippocratic oath. Military personnel take oaths of God and country.
Boy scouts promise to be prepared. Girl scouts promise to "help people at all times and live by the Girl Scout law".
Regular people take oaths all the time. But some oaths are kept in the closet until broken by someone who chooses to step out of the shadows.
Mafia members take such a secret oath, according to testimony from mobster Joe Valachi. But it's not exactly a scout's honor reprise.
"You live by the gun and by the knife and you die by the gun and by the knife," Valachi swore under oath.
Celibacy to weeds
Clergymen take oaths to be celibate, then help couples take oaths that are supposed to bond them sexually, financially and spiritually for life.
There's even an oath for weed-cutters in Toledo, Ohio: "... to be diligent and vigilant in the reduction, cutting and elimination of noxious growths."
Apparently, oaths are not just for the podium party on inauguration day.
By the way, the word "oath," according to Webster's, has a second meaning -- swearword. Some people swear they'll never use a swearword. Others, who have taken too many oaths, swear to their heart's content.
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