My friend and fellow GMG member Sasha Volokh has penned a great piece in the Washington Post:
Secret Iranian Influence in the US Constitution!
Everybody knows that the essence of our structural constitution is checks and balances. “The structure of the government must furnish the proper checks and balances between the different departments,” says Madison in Federalist 51. “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”
But where does this concept of “check” come from? You might be able to think of a number of meanings of “check”, like to hinder or obstruct (that’s the checks and balances themselves), to verify (check whether something is true), to give up your luggage or your hat, to attack a king in chess, to draw a checkerboard pattern (like a checked shirt), or (as a noun) a financial check that you might draw on your bank. Plus, there’s the Exchequer, which is the British term for the Treasury.
Let me now blow your mind: all of these usages of “check” (including “Exchequer”) come from exactly the same root. Moreover, the root is the game of chess. Yes, the game of chess is primary, and verification, obstruction, the Treasury, and negotiable financial instruments all get their names from a metaphor derived from the game of chess.