Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Etymology #1

I am fascinated by the origins of words, or etymology. Accordingly, in keeping with the randomness of this blog, I will from time to time post a brief history of words. For those interested, this is a neat resource.

To the Romans, lead was "plumbum." To the English, this means "one with a purple ass." Seriously though, as pipes were made of lead back then, people who worked on pipes became known as "plumbers."  Think of the periodic table, where lead is "Pb."

I shudder to think of the consequences of getting one's water from lead pipes...

Speaking of the Romans, they paid their soldiers with salt (or with an allowance for salt, depending on the source I use). As you probably know, salt is not only essential for human survival, but it makes things yummier. Considering the lack of availability of most of today's common spices, you can begin to see the value. Plus, salt wasn't so easy to come by then. These "salarium," or salt wages, are today's "salary." Now, back to the salt mine!

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