Monday, June 25, 2007

Inflation and Flatulence: “Words of a Feather” Reveals Surprising Shared Word Origins

Author: Nick
Category: Money

words of a feather by murray suid

I don’t read a whole lot of books, mostly because I’m a firm believer that just about anything worth reading can be found on the internet for free. I may have to rethink this belief after reading a copy of Words of a Feather because it met all three of my criteria for something worth reading:

  • It’s funny.
  • It taught me something useful that I didn’t know.
  • It’s still funny after I realized I was learning something.

The author of Words of a Feather, Murray Suid, asked me if he could share a little bit about the book with all of you. So read on and then pick up your own copy of Words of a Feather.


I came to Punny Money planning to tout WORDS OF A FEATHER. But after spending 10 minutes here, I’ve saved more money than I’d ever earn selling my book.

For example, thanks to your “Top 10 List,” I will stop wasting resources on underwear.

How can I repay you for saving me thousands of dollars? Perhaps WORDS OF A FEATHER will provide the answer. The book focuses word pairs that seem unrelated yet share origins. Examples are “cosmos & cosmetics” and “dictator & dictionary.”

Such pairs provide insights into many topics. For example, when we realize that “senate & senile” are related, what happens in Washington becomes understandable.

Now let’s talk money. For example, both “anger & angina” trace to the Greek “ankhone” meaning “strangling.” Anger strangles blood vessels, sometimes leading to a hospital visit. Think of the bills you can avoid by being cheery and not angry. (Note: Etymologists are not licensed to practice medicine. Before medicating yourself with laughter, ask your medical provider if it’s safe to reduce your daily amount of anger.)

Next consider “flatulence & inflation.” Both words derive from the Latin “flare,” literally “to blow.” By the sixteenth century, flatulence had become a euphemism for “fart.” The related “inflation” literally means “blow in.” Originally it referred to filling balloons. By the 1830s, the word was used metaphorically to name the expansion of the money supply. Government printing offices turn out money that is blown into the system. Some would say that this is nothing more than governmental farting around with our money. It’s a good bet that inflation will be with us for at least as long as flatulence exists. Plan your investments accordingly.

I hope that these etymological insights will save you enough money that you can afford to buy a copy of WORDS OF A FEATHER. But if not, you can get some freebies at, where you can find samples from the book plus an interactive quiz that some people find very funny, but maybe not as funny as Punny Money.

Also be sure to check out the Words of a Feather blog for more entertaining etymological exposition.