The Presidential Inauguration (explained using only the ten hundred most used words)

The White House for kids who can't read good.

(Up-goer five lets you try to explain a hard idea using only the ten hundred most used words. It takes its idea from this picture. This piece is written with it.)

Today is the day the head man in the most important state in the world gets to promise that he will stay the head man for another four years. Because of the things which the people who made that state agreed on over two hundred years ago, the most important man — and it has always been a man — has made this promise in almost the same way every four years without a break since the year the whole thing began.

The real promise, though, was made with just the important man and a few other important men the day before today in a room in the White House. It is not always done like this — the first time the man made his promise he did it in front of everyone — but there is no reason not to. In fact, since the promise has to be made on day twenty of the first month, if he wanted to have the party on the first day of the week he would have to have done it this way.

(Last time, if you remember, he made the promise in front of everyone but did it wrong and had to do it again in his new house.)

The promise has not always had to be made on day twenty of the first month. Until 1937 it had been made on day four of the third month, but then it was moved forward. This is because the way the important man is picked used to take a lot longer. It is a very big place, after all, and before they had things like cars it would take a long time for all the people who had been picked to go to the head city and pick the important man. That is still why there is a three month wait between everyone writing who they want the head man to be on little pieces of paper and the head man actually getting his job.

But anyway.

Today may not be the day the head man really gets his job, but it is the day he makes his promise in front of everyone else. And, more to the point, it's the day everyone has a big party to show how happy they are that their home has not broken down into a bad place.

Last year that party had a well known man playing music, another well known woman making music with her mouth, and lots of people reading from a very important book about god. This year, there will be more of the same.

But there has already been a sad thing which might make the big party look bad. The day before today, a man who made music at a small party for the head man's promise-making was thrown out of the party for not agreeing with the head man. He played one piece of music — called "Words I Never Said", which is sort of about how bad the head man is — and made it last half an hour, then was made to leave by six big men.

That news might make everyone remember that the head man has a lot of people who don't like him on the left as well as the right. It is something which he doesn't like to point out, a little bit because the way the fights work in the city where all the important men and women go to tell everyone what to do is that they are between people on the middle-left and people on the very far right. In the short run, it is more important for the head man to come out on top of those fights. But in the long run, it might be telling that the very first fight of his second four years was with someone he did not think would be a problem.

The last time the head man made his promise. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.