In the common synonyms and phrases for money, I’m struck by how many of their embedded feelings clash: “stinking rich,” “lousy with money,” “jingle-jangle,” “almighty dollar,” “smackers,” “folding dough,” “flat busted,” “fat city,” “easy come, easy go,” “it’s only money,” “a penny saved is a penny got” (as William Penn insisted, but altered by the spendthrift Benjamin Franklin to “ . . . twopence gained”), and on and on.
What’s especially impressed you in the bits of slang you’ve gleaned?
By the way, how do you feel about that penny in the savings account? Would it be better placed in groceries or clothing? It’s such a small amount, after all! And in Franklin’s time, its purchasing power was more like $10 or $20 today.
We do have the familiar “money is the root of all evil,” misquoting Saint Paul, who shrewdly observed the “love of money is the root of all evil” (perhaps better translated for our era as the lust or craving for money).
Or the proclamation, “We are the richest and most powerful nation on Earth,” American foreign policy becomes cast.
You are threatened: “Your money or your life,” as though they’re separate.
You’re evaluated: A person’s “word is as good as gold” or he or she is “well endowed,” with a sexual innuendo. We have “stone broke,” like a toppled tombstone.
These hardly express the neutral objectivity that academic economists would have us expecting! Instead, the everyday wisdom — the word on the street — voices unresolved conflict. In this view, aspiration is constantly crashing into the wall, dusting itself off with a shrug, and speeding off again. Whether it’s comedy or tragedy seems to be up to the actor. It was, after all, the heart of Charlie Chaplin’s movie fame, this tramp who survives.
Because our own lives are not like Hollywood, however, that crash could spell the end of our road. Maybe the real miracle is that we’ve gotten as far as we have without crashing. Or, if we have crashed, that we’ve somehow managed to get back up and in motion again. And aren’t you glad we no longer have Debtors’ Prisons?
Let’s consider some adult experiences and emotions:
How you would feel if your annual income were broadcast on the evening news?
How would you feel knowing exactly how much your friends and neighbors are earning? Would it change your perception of them?