One of my Canadian friends asked me if she could ask me about some of the oddities of the American language. I said sure. Then she asked, rather sheepishly, what “taking the fifth” meant.

“Do Americans eat cake when they take the fifth, or is it something else?”

Ah… I can only wish! The fifth amendment goes as follows:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Still, what a lovely image! Part of me wants to smile at the imagery of Americans eating cake, and another part of me wants to cry because there are probably tons of Americans who don’t have the knowledge of the American constitution to really understand what this phrase means.