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The History Of Business Words. Part 5

Item

This word is simply the Latin for also, and was a convenient word for beginning each article in a list. It goes back to the adjective is, id - a demonstrative word meaning he, that.

Lien

A legal claim. A charge upon real or personal property for the satisfaction of some debt or duty. On the face of it this word does not suggest ligament, a tough band of tissue connecting bones. But it is only a worn-down French form of the same Latin word, ligamen. A lien often proves a sufficiently tough band of tissue holding a man to his obligations.

Mint

A place where money is coined. This is the same word as money. Both come from Monet a. In ancient Borne the temple of Juno Moneta was the place of coinage. Moneta means the Warner, and is akin to our word mind. It is extremely odd that our words mind, mint, money, and admonition should all come from the same root, although almost by accident. There were doubtless other temples than that of Juno Moneta where money could have been coined and kept. But Juno's temple (as may be seen today) stood on a cliff and was not easily accessible.

Pecuniary

Belating to money. Pecunia was from pecus, cattle, for the ancient Romans found property in cattle their best capital. See how all these words are psychologically bound up together - cattle, chattel, capital, per capita, head of cattle, pecuniary. Even the word peculiar comes in here. Peculium was private property in cattle. No wonder that some private transactions are still called peculiar. The more private they are, the more likely they are to be peculiar.

Pound

The earliest moneys were weights, and pound is from pondero, to weigh. So is ponder, which means to weigh mentally.

Posse

A company or force, as of sheriffs. This is short for Latin posse comitatus, a body with power; the word posse meaning to be able. Sometimes a posse is able; sometimes it isn't.

Premium

A reward or recompense. A prise. A bonus. Consideration paid for a contract of insurance. A sum in advance of the nominal or par value. It is Latin praemium, from prae and entere, to take or buy before. It meant what one has got before or better than others. Well, somebody still gets the premium before anybody else, but it is not always the person who expected it.

Redeem

To repurchase, recover, or regain. The root is the same as that of premium. It is emere, to buy.

Salary

The recompense paid, or stipulated to be paid, to a person at regular intervals for services. The root is the same as that of salt. The solarium, or salt money, was a part of the Roman soldier's pay. It used to be thought that "emoluments" were payments in mola, meal; but that derivation is now given up. See emolument, above. We still have the phrase "to be worth one's salt," and some salaries nowadays are about right for salt-money or pin-money.

Stock

1. Cattle. 2. Goods kept for sale. 3. The capital of a company or corporation in the form of transferable shares. All of these senses go back through more or less complicated histories to Anglo-Saxon stocc, which meant a stick or trunk of a tree. In the case of cattle the derivation is easy; a given breed is like a tree of which the individuals are branches, and which goes on reproducing itself. The breed is permanent. So too is the stock of goods kept on hand. I am not sure but capital stock goes back through British national finance to the tally stick or stock on which accounts were originally kept. Loans to the Government were called stock.

Viz. This abbreviation is for Latin videlicet, shortened from videre licet, meaning it is permitted to see, or you see. Now we translate it to wit. The syllable viz. is not pronounced. It is so written, but it is read to wit.

Warranty, Guaranty, Guarantee

These are all the same word. The original is Old High German wehren, to grant or warrant. The g of guaranty is from the Norman form of the word. The distinctions between warranty and guaranty are legal, and are not without complexity. But it is sometimes said by manufacturers that to warrant goods is a stronger term than to guarantee them. It is not so perhaps in the law courts, when it can be shown that the word guarantee was used to give the impression of a warrant. But in speaking to customers retailers have been known to take refuge in the statement, "I did not warrant the goods, I only guaranteed." It is a contemptible excuse, and no dealer who uses it deserves patronage.

These fifty or sixty words make a list which might be indefinitely prolonged to show the romance and psychology and history which lie forgotten in our business terms.

§ 55. Trademarks are often Latin or Greek terms. Familiar examples are: Eureka (Gr., "I have found it"); Regina (Lat, queen); Melo-ton (Gr., sweet sound); Optimus (Lat., the best); Sozodont (Gr., tooth-saving); Luxfer (Lat., light-bearing); Bro-mose (Gr., full of nourishment); Sapolio (Lat., oily soap - a curious name for the goods).

Such words as Autoharp and Flexibone and Anti-fat are hybrids. They are not good Greek or good Latin or good English. To become good English, a trademark name ought to be compounded as scientific terms are compounded, all the parts being from the same language. We have no way of preventing the coinage of such monstrosities as Autoharp. No teacher of Greek would buy such a thing, but the trade of teachers of Greek is not an item that manufacturers particularly strive for. But any teacher of Greek, out of sheer love for the purity of the English language, would help a manufacturer to get up a good trademark name.

More use should be made of Anglo-Saxon roots in the invention of distinctive names. And it isn't necessary to deform the spelling in order to do it. I suppose that the inventor of the phrase "Keen Kutter" thinks the second K extremely effective. It arrests attention, but the very look of that K is blunt. It lacks the sharp edge which long association has given to the word Cutter.

The Trademark Act of 1905 deserves study on the part of manufacturers. It has many important provisions, one being that geographical names are not admissible. Even the word "Orient" has been ruled out.


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