Words: degrade, v.

PRESIDENT CLINTON'S repeated assertion about an air-strike "to degrade" Saddam Hussein might sound curious to some ears. After all, the despot could hardly be any more base. In fact, the verb has been so consumed by its meaning of to debase that this has sidelined its first, medieval sense of taking down a degree or even of ousting. Massinger later wrote of the way in which "thou dost degrade thyself of all the honours Thy ancestors left thee." In each case, the OED last cites Jowett and Cardinal Newman, which is lofty company for any President.

Incidentally, whenever Clinton attends a fundraiser at the Sheraton New York, he uses the side-entrance: surely a perilous photo-opportunity: it is hard by the 53rd Street Cigar Bar.