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Friday, October 31, 2008

Hokudai/Cast 84: Salt and Salary

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How important is salt? During the European
Age of Exploration (the 1400s) it drove nations to explore new worlds - Columbus was looking for pepper and salt; Vasco da Gama was looking for a short route to India where salt was plentiful. Salt toppled the British Empire in India (Gandhi's famous Salt March in 1930 started it.) It was used as payment to soldiers during the Roman Empire. And humans need salt, although too much is dangerous.

The English word for 'salary' comes from the Latin word 'salarium' which meant 'money to buy salt.' There are a quite a few phrases that use 'salt.' Here are five.
  • worth your salt - obviously this means that you are worth a lot; you are valuable. You can say, "She's worth her salt." This phrase goes back to the Roman era. More recently people say, "She's worth her weight in gold."
  • salt of the earth - this means that you are good, hardworking, and a true friend.
  • take it with a grain of salt - this means you shouldn't take it seriously or you should be careful about believing it. A person might say, "You should take this with a grain of salt but I think she's getting promoted."
  • back to the salt mines - this means back to work. Working in a salt mine is hard work. After lunch, a salaryman (a salt man?) might say, "Well, back to the salt mines." And then go sit in a nice air-conditioned office.
  • rub salt into a wound - this means making things worse. If you've ever cut your finger cooking and then accidentally put some salt into the cut, you know this really hurts. If someone is upset because his dog just ran away and you say, "Maybe you didn't feed him enough." The first person can say, "Why don't you just rub some more salt in my wound."

Salt, a world-shaping spice. 
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Mirai Sozo is the School of Future Learning at Hokuriku University. The primary focus is on language (English and Chinese) and management (hospital administration, sports, and business).
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