Are you a front bencher or a back bencher? If you are the former, chances are you were pretty good at the school stuff. That one person who always had clean and tidy copies, always did their homework and much to the dismay of backbenchers, used to remind the teacher about the homework given by them. If you were a backbencher, on the other hand, sleep was perhaps of greater importance to you than all the lessons combined, barring the games period. You were the evil spirits plaguing the classroom while those at the front had the job of bringing a balance in the small universe that was your class. But most would agree that it is a very generalized notion that a backbencher must be flunking his exams while a frontbencher must be acing her assessments like she is a reincarnation of Newton and Einstein combined.
Surprisingly, this disproportionate inclination towards a person’s position of sitting is often seen in English words as well. Take the term supersede for example. It means to take the place of someone, generally of a person in authority but it has been derived by combining super- (above) and sedere (to sit), literally meaning to sit above someone.
Another word in a similar vein is preside (from Latin praesidere, prae- meaning to before + sedere) which literally means to sit before (someone or something). With the passage of time the word took upon a sense of governance. Thus, if a meeting is presided over by the CEO of a company, it means that the CEO will be present to govern the meeting. This is also the root that led to the birth of the term president who is the elected and supreme head of a republic.
Not to leave the backbenchers behind, we also have subside with the literal meaning being to sit b ehind (Latin sub-: under, beneath and sedere). Now it can be used as a synonym for receding as in “The rain water subsided a few hours after the downpour”. Earlier though, subside was used to refer to military reserved who were left behind when the army went into a battle and were called upon when reinforcement or any kind of assistance was required. This sense is carried on to this day by the word subsidy which means assistance, aid or grant.
Another related word is subsidiary which refers to something which is less important but supplementary to a more important entity. For example you must have heard of subsidiary companies like Tata Motors being a subsidiary of the Tata Group. It means Tata Motors, a subsidiary, is under the control of the central company, Tata Group in this case.
Here’s a table summary that will help you sail through the quiz ahead:
|Supersede||To replace or take the place of something or someone|
|Subsidy||Assistance, aid or grant|
|Subside||Sink to a lower level or form a depression|
|Subsidiary||Functioning in a supporting capacity or lower in rank or importance|
|President||The elected head of a republic|