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The History Of Business Words. Part 3

Brummagem

Cheap jewelry. The word is a corruption of Birmingham. Birmingham has produced so much in the way of cheap jewelry, gilt toys, etc., that in England brummagem is almost a synonym for counterfeit.

Bunco

To cheat. This word is no other than the respectable word bank. We get it through the Spanish, where banco is the name given to a certain game of cards. Bunk means worthless or deceptive talk. It hits some advertisements.

Buncombe. Bunkum

Speechmaking to gain popular applause; a line of talk which is mere talk. Old Felix Walker, in the sixteenth congress, represented the district of Buncombe, in North Carolina. The house was seriously trying to get a vote on the famous "Missouri question," when Mr. Walker rose and proceeded to make a long irrelevant speech, declaring that he was expected by his constituents "to make a speech for Buncombe."

Calico

Cotton cloth, especially cheap cotton cloth printed with a figured pattern. Cotton cloth was originally called Calicut cloth, from Calicut, India, whence it was first exported.

Cambric

A fine, white fabric made of flax or linen. This is from the French town Cambrai (Flemish Kamerik).

Camera

Every photographic camera has a little room, or chamber. In Italy to-day the first thing yon ask for at a hotel is a room - una camera. A " comrade" is a room-mate, or cam-erade.

Cancel

To cross and deface, as the lines of a writing; to make void. This word has a long history throngh French and Latin back to Greek, where it starts with the meaning of a lattice. The lattice-work of an ancient Greek gate is still to be seen in the crossed lines cut into a canceled check.

Candidate

One who offers himself, or is put forward by others, as a suitable person for an office or an honor. The word is from Latin candidus, white, because in old Rome candidates were expected to appear in white togas. Our word candid means open, honest, sincere. The old sense is conveyed in our slang, as when we say, "He is square and white/' And we still have a preference for candidates who have shown themselves white in business, no matter what color of clothes they wear.

Capital

The amount of property owned by an individual or a corporation at a specified time, or the amount of such property which is used for business purposes. It is a long way back from this meaning to the origin of the word in Latin caput,'the head. But the word shows that from early times the head has been considered the most important part of the body. The "capitalist' is still looked upon as "the brains" of the economic system, and capital goods are regarded as the chief power in that system.

Cash

Latin capsa, French caisse=case or box for money.

Cashmere

A rich stuff for shawls, etc. A dress fabric of fine wool, or of fine wool and cotton. The original material was wool of Kashmir, in Northern India.

Casualty

A mishap; a serious accident. This comes to us through early French from the Latin casualitas, and that from cadere, to fall. Accidents seemed to the early mind to fall, as it were out of a clear sky; they dropped like thunderbolts, or as a man drops when he is accidentally struck or accidentally steps into a hole. We still say, "A sad accident befell me." And our slang holds the same figure, when we say of a man, "He fell down on that deal"

Cattle

Live animals held as property. See Chattel.

Chattel

Any item of movable or immovable property except real estate or the freehold. Cattle and chattel are simply old French forms of Latin capitate, our word capital. There was a time when cattle were capital par excellence. Property in that form could be moved and invested more readily than in any other form save cash.

Cheat

To deceive or defraud. The word is probably a shortened form of escheat, and originally had an honest meaning. Escheat is Old French eschoir, from Latin eotxadere, to fall to the lot of. In English feudal law, escheat was the falling back of lands to the lord of the fee on the failure of heirs capable of holding under the original grant. Hence in later days it meant the lapsing or reversion of lands to the crown or the state. In procuring escheats fraud was easily practised, and so the bad sense of the word developed.

CLERK

One appointed to keep records or accounts, or conduct correspondence, without administrative authority. The word is the same in origin as clerical. It came to us from the Greek, through Latin and French. In the Middle Ages only priestly persons had enough education to perform clerical services.

COLLATERAL

Pertaining to an obligation or security attached to another to secure its performance. Hence often used as a noun, meaning collateral securities. This is Latin collater-alis, from con, together, and lateralis, lateral or side by side with.

Competition

Act of seeking to gain what another is at the same time attempting to gain; the effort of two or more parties, acting independently, to secure the custom of a third party. This is Latin competitio, from con and petere, to seek together. There is nothing in the original words to prevent this "seeking together" from being co-operation; but competition has been spe-: cialized into the very opposite of co-operation.

Consider

To view or contemplate with fixed thought. The word is probably astrological in its origin, from con and sidera. The sidera were the constellations, which the Romans seriously studied to divine the fated outcome of events. The word contemplate is of similar origin, from Latin templum, a section of the sky marked out by the augur for study.

Corporation

A group of persons or objects treated by the law as an individual or unity having rights or liabilities, or both, distinct from those of the persons or objects constituting it. This is Latin corporatio, from corpus, body. It is sometimes sarcastically said that corporations have no souls. The logical inference is clear: if a given body has no soul, it is dead, and should be buried.


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