I grabbed lunch with a friend recently and was pleasantly surprised to find the sandwich shop had birch beer in their soda fountain. For those of you without familial roots in Pennsylvania Dutch country, birch beer is a carbonated soft drink made with herbal extracts and birch bark. It is kind of like root beer (or sarsaparilla, which in and of itself is a fun word to say). A birch beer float is made with vanilla ice cream, but a Black Cow is made with birch beer and chocolate ice cream; both are great to enjoy during the hot summer months. Root beer is made with sassafras bark. No roots involved.
What does have roots? Our phrase this week: per stirpes, which I think is another fun word to say. It trips up a lot of people – you hear a lot of “per stirrups” when people read it.
adj. Latin for “by roots,” by representation.
Per stirpes is commonly used in wills or trusts. It is used to describe what happens to a share if the person who is supposed to inherit it is no longer alive. Imagine for a moment that the old woman who lived in a shoe writes a will and leaves the shoe to her many children, per stirpes. Fine and dandy if all of those children are still alive – the kids get the shoe. But, if one of the children has died but had kids of his own, then his children get his share evenly divided amongst them. If you draw this out, it looks a bit like the roots of a tree.
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