Stock.

I’m reading David Graeber’s Debt (an eye-opening and thought-provoking book) and I just got to this passage:

One of the most important forms of currency in England in Henry’s time were notched “tally sticks” used to record debts. Tally sticks were quite explicitly IOUs: both parties to a transaction would take a hazelwood twig, notch it to indicate the amount owed, and then split it in half. The creditor would keep one half, called “the stock” (hence the origin of the term “stock holder”) and the debtor kept the other, called “the stub” (hence the origin of the term “ticket stub.”)

I found this delightful but suspected it was too good to be true; when I checked the OED, I discovered that the entry for stock (not fully updated since 1917) listed 59 senses, #52a being:

The subscribed capital of a trading company, or the public debt of a nation, municipal corporation, or the like, regarded as transferable property held by the subscribers or creditors, and subject to fluctuations in market value. Also, in particularized sense, a kind of stock, a particular fund in which money may be invested.
In expressions like to buy or sell stocks, the word may be partly an application of sense A. 42, ‘tally’. Cf. quot. 1714 under that sense [F. Atterbury Eng. Advice to Freeholders 4 Boroughs are rated on Royal Exchange, like Stocks and Tallies.].

It’s placed under section VI. “A fund, store,” where we find this paragraph appended:

The senses grouped under this head are not found in the other Germanic languages except by adoption from English. Their origin is obscure, and possibly several different lines of development may have blended. Thus the application of the word to a trader’s capital may partly involve the notion of a trunk or stem (branch I) from which the gains are an outgrowth, and partly that of ‘fixed basis’ or ‘foundation’ (branch II): cf. fund n. Sense A. 47 may be derived immediately from that of ‘money-box’, and have given rise to uses coincident with senses of different origin. The application to cattle is primarily a specific use of the sense ‘store’, but the notion of ‘race’ or ‘breed’ (sense A. 3) has had some share in its development.

Sense A. 42, “The portion of a tally which was given to the person making a payment to the Exchequer,” is placed under IV. “The more massive portion of an instrument or weapon; usually, the body or handle, to which the working part is attached.” So it’s all much fuzzier than Graeber makes it out to be, and a good illustration of how difficult both lexicography and etymology are; it’ll be interesting to see what the OED does with this entry when the Third Edition gets around to updating it. Meanwhile, Wiktionary says:

From Old English stocc, from Proto-Germanic *stukkaz (“tree-trunk”), with modern senses mostly referring either to the trunk from which the tree grows (figuratively, its origin and/or support/foundation), or to a piece of wood, stick, or rod. The senses of “supply” and “raw material” arose from a probable conflation with steck (“an item of goods, merchandise”) or the use of split tally sticks consisting of foil or counterfoil and stock to capture paid taxes, debts or exchanges. Doublet of chock.

Comments

  1. Graeber plays fast and loose with a lot of facts in that book. I enjoyed it as I read it, but I noticed a couple of things that seemed incorrect. Started fact checking and was disappointed by the outcome.

    He also has an oddly annoying habit of vituperatively arguing with any (even mildly) critical review of his book. Even in the Amazon comments.

  2. Graeber plays fast and loose with a lot of facts in that book.

    The infamous description of Apple Computers is one:

    “Apple Computers is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly Republican) computer engineers who broke from IBM in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, forming little democratic circles of twenty to forty people with their laptops in each other’s garages…”

    Literally every assertion in this sentence is wrong, except that the founders of Apple really were computer engineers.

    https://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2013/01/the-very-last-david-graeber-post.html

  3. Also, on this particular example:

    “The creditor would keep one half, called “the stock” (hence the origin of the term “stock holder”) and the debtor kept the other, called “the stub” (hence the origin of the term “ticket stub.”) ”

    Modern finance draws a very clear distinction between stockholders and creditors. A stockholder – or shareholder, or equity investor, the terms are synonyms – owns part of the enterprise, and is entitled to a share of the profits, if any, and to a say in how the business is run. A creditor has lent money to a person or entity; she’s entitled to her money back plus agreed interest.

    Now, debts were definitely recorded using tally sticks, from the Middle Ages if not earlier. And tally sticks circulated as currency, just as, later on, goldsmiths’ notes did. And any transferable debt instrument, private or public, can be used as currency as long as people are willing to accept it. And “stock” was even used to mean “public debt” as well as “shares” in the 18th and 19th centuries. So far, so good.

    But according to Merriam-Webster, “stockholder” was first used in 1753, with the modern meaning. This makes sense: recognisable modern stock markets go back to the late 17th century, with the Amsterdam market in VOC stock. But it doesn’t support Graeber’s assertion at all.
    He says that “stockholder” was used to mean “creditor” – which it wasn’t. From the start (at least if M-W is right), it meant “shareholder”.
    He says that “stockholder” originally mean “the person holding the thick bit of a tally stick” – but shares (unlike debts) were never recorded using tally sticks. They were recorded using paper certificates.
    And he implies strongly that “stockholder” meaning “creditor” goes back to the time of Henry II – but there’s no evidence of it ever being used, in any sense, before the mid-18th century.

    And he also asserts that the other half of the tally stick was called the stub. Not generally it wasn’t. It was called the foil. This also makes sense – it wasn’t stubby! It was a stick split lengthwise, along the grain, and so “foil” – for a thin, flexible object, like gold foil – makes sense as a name, and “stub” doesn’t.

  4. Ajay cites to Brad DeLong, former Deputy Ass’t Secretary of the Treasury and current Professor of Economics at Berkeley (specialty: economic history), who went on a jihad against Graeber. You should be aware that DeLong — a liberal economist who has an intense dislike for anti-liberal leftists who reject standard economics (Marxists, anarchists, etc) — sees in Graeber (an anthropologist) the kind of left-wing non-economist dabbler that he finds intolerable.

    DeLong has a tendency to foam at the mouth when he’s agitated, and you might find yourself feeling sympathy with Graeber after you look at the link. I read Debt and thought it was thought-provoking.

    The problem is that DeLong and others who know what they’re talking about in specific areas (like you!!) have found that Graeber is careless with facts. Often the facts he’s fuzzy or even flat-out wrong about aren’t terribly important to his argument – they’re the sort of illustrative detail that keeps a book like this entertaining – but taken en masse, they created a distrust in this reader toward his broader conclusions.

  5. AJP Crown says:

    For stub, the Online Etymological Dic. says

    Meaning “remaining part of something partially consumed” is from 1520s.

    It ought to give more than that.

  6. AJP Crown says:

    Thanks for that, Bloix & Ajay. I read Debt for its history rather than for any dogma, after I’d read Benjamin Kunkel’s review in the LRB, years ago. It’s annoying if there are errors; luckily I’ve forgotten nearly everything, so it’s moot.

  7. Graeber plays fast and loose with a lot of facts in that book. I enjoyed it as I read it, but I noticed a couple of things that seemed incorrect. Started fact checking and was disappointed by the outcome.

    Yes, I was aware going in of his reputation for sloppiness, but that doesn’t really bother me — I’m not so much interested in the details (which I will soon forget whether accurate or not) as in the overturning of the long-held assumptions about money and the economy which have created the mess we’re in today, with bankers and übercapitalists running everything and pulling the wool over people’s eyes with the old Adam Smith flimflam. Anything that gets people to say “this ain’t right, how come rich debtors get more credit and poor ones get the shaft” is fine with me.

  8. DeLong has a tendency to foam at the mouth when he’s agitated

    I’ve never been able to stand the man.

  9. “poor ones get the shaft”…. wouldn’t that make them the stockholders? Or are they tally whackers? Now I’m really confused! 🙂

  10. David Eddyshaw says:

    I am sadly all too familiar with the phenomenon of valid theses being cast into doubt by defenders who feel that their obvious correctness to all right-thinking people means that careful reasoning and careful documentation are relatively unimportant.

    I have occasionally been tempted to wish that they might switch to the bad guys’ side.

  11. David Eddyshaw says:

    I don’t think Adam Smith is the bad guy here. He would not have approved of epic rent-seeking, financialisation, wholesale regulatory capture and deliberate subversion of democracy for their own benefit by corporations and plutocrats, any more than we good anarchists and socialists do. I don’t myself believe that capitalism is capable of ridding itself of these pathologies, but I respect the opinions of many who do.

  12. John Cowan says:

    As Chaucer had it, “The stakes so small, the battle so bitter to fight.”

    But capitalists who praise Smith are like white supremacists who talk about “the party of Lincoln”. Zompist’s review.

  13. I don’t think Adam Smith is the bad guy here.

    I agree, but I wasn’t talking about him — I said “the old Adam Smith flimflam,” meaning the modern use of him to represent the OG of capitalism. (Cf. Karl “I am not a Marxist” Marx.)

  14. Richard Hershberger says:

    “I have occasionally been tempted to wish that they might switch to the bad guys’ side.”

    Thank goodness Glenn Greenwald did!

  15. >>Yes, I was aware going in of his reputation for sloppiness, but that doesn’t really bother me — I’m not so much interested in the details (which I will soon forget whether accurate or not) as in the overturning of the long-held assumptions about money and the economy which have created the mess we’re in today, with bankers and übercapitalists running everything and pulling the wool over people’s eyes with the old Adam Smith flimflam.

    My concern was – it wasn’t so much sloppiness as him subtly twisting facts to fit his wordview and narrative. My concern was, if I could see so many half-truths in the stuff I know about, how do I trust him with being accurate with the stuff I don’t know about, e.g. debt, economics, etc.

  16. Richard Hershberger says:

    Tally sticks: I am working on a project on the basic vocabulary of baseball–not the colorful slang, but the uncolorful language when mere communication is the goal. One entry was on what we call it when the runner crosses home plate. The official term is a “run,” which initially seems straightforward but makes less sense the more you look at it. Let us overlook strolls taken following bases on balls and stipulate that the act of the player advancing is a “run” in the same way that one might take a “run” as exercise. The problem is that a run in baseball is the result of four such runs, which might be combined but also might not. The explanation is that the word was borrowed from cricket, where the act really is a single run (if we overlook that there are two people doing this at the same time). The term makes much more sense in cricket.

    Earlier terms used were all about how the accomplishment was recorded, not how it was made. In this category are “tally,” “score,” and “point.” I don’t really have any deep thoughts about this, but find it interesting.

  17. I do too — thanks for passing that along! As you know, I share your interest in early baseball, but am too lazy to do the digging you do.

  18. Alex M. says:

    The use of tally sticks to record contracts did not officially end until 1782 when paper contracts were mandated by Act of Parliament. The same Act also abolished sinecure positions in the Exchequer but stated that the Act would not come into force until the last holder of a sinecure had died. The final sinecure holder died in 1826, the Act came into force and the Exchequer started a long process to modernise its procedures and record keeping. In 1834 the decision was taken to get rid of the Exchequer’s entire stock of obsolete tallies. The tallies were burnt in the furnaces at Parliament starting the fire which destroyed the mediaeval Palace of Westminster.

  19. David Weman says:

    Graeber also, as I recall, has a similar problem to Jared Diamond (though less egregriously) and I suppose other writers writing for a popular audience, he doesn’t usually indicate which of his conclusions are completely his, and which are based on generations of scholarship.

    Diamond wants you to think he was the first to think of anything he wrote about. He really was an interesting, highly original thinker as far as I can tell, and still wanted more credit than he deserved.

    Graeber isn’t quite like that, he can talk about one scholar he likes, but, at least IIRC, he won’t discuss schools of thoughts or what is orthodox in antropology, history, ecnomic history, etc, just contrasts his ideas with (his version of) economics 101. It makes it harder to say when he’s on firm ground.

  20. John Cowan says:

    The tallies were burnt in the furnaces at Parliament starting the fire which destroyed the mediaeval Palace of Westminster.

    And one of the morals of that story is, Don’t try to burn wood in a coal furnace: it’s not designed for it. Because there is no source of air except from under the grate, the air passes through rapidly, the wood burns hot and fast, creosote builds up in the stove and chimney (especially when burning softwood, which this was), and Robert is no longer your uncle. On a small scale like a kitchen stove it can work. Heating the whole Palace of Westminster? Fuggedaboudit.

    TIL that if an appliance is for cooking, it’s a range; stove is technically applied only to appliances that are mainly for heat.

  21. The use of tally sticks to record contracts did not officially end until 1782 when paper contracts were mandated by Act of Parliament.

    To be clear – tally sticks were never used, as far as I know, to record contracts. They were used to record payments – contracts are written down, or spoken.

  22. The explanation is that the word was borrowed from cricket, where the act really is a single run

    Well, not always – you can score a run in cricket (as in baseball) without running at all. The equivalent of a home run is a six – the ball crosses the boundary in the air, worth six runs – or a four – it crosses the boundary having touched the ground first. There’s also wides – the ball goes too far to one side of the batsman – and no-balls – the bowler bowls wrong. (I think these are “foul balls” in baseball?)

    Bowler, incidentally, rather than pitcher or thrower or something, because until fairly recently cricket bowlers bowled underarm, like modern ten-pin bowlers. The overarm action was only legalised in the early 19th century.

  23. It was only legalized in baseball in the late 19th century; pitchers were required to throw underarm until 1872, when “crossfire” or sidearm pitching was legalized (since they couldn’t seem to stop pitchers from doing it), and they gave up and allowed overarm pitching in the early 1880s.

  24. Interesting! I did not know that. 1865 was the date for overarm bowling in cricket.

  25. Richard Hershberger says:

    Cricket: Yes, I was simplifying, omitting no balls. I am less conversant with the early development of cricket than I am of baseball, so this is just a guess, but I suspect that the convention of calling this a “run” came before the niceties of no balls and wides and the like.

    Bowling versus pitching: “Pitch” was not at first a term of art, but a simple descriptive. We still see pitching of this sort of pitching horseshoes or quoits. As baseball grew more formalize, the distinction was sometimes made that a pitching, unlike bowling, was by definition a full toss, i.e. not touching the ground before crossing the plate.

    Overhand pitching: The history is complicated. The 1872 rule was not intended to legalize sidearm (they would have borrowed “round arm” from cricket) pitching. Rather, it legalized the “underhand throw,” allowing the pitcher to make full use of his elbow. Cricket never made this leap, which is why bowling and pitching are such different deliveries, despite both now usually being overhand.

    An unintended consequence was to popularize the curve ball, which previously had been nearly impossible to throw legally. Only Candy Cummings and Robert Mathewson managed it. But under the new rules, everyone could get in on the action. Within a couple of years, curve balls dominated pitching. The older pitchers who could not or would not adapt, instead retired: Spalding, McBride, and Zettlein were prominent examples. It is possible to throw an underhand curve. Fastpitch softball pitchers do it routinely. But you can throw a better (or at least different) curve with a higher arm angle. Pitchers started cheating their deliveries upward. The league institutions weren’t up to supporting umpires who tried to enforce the rules, so umpires didn’t. There was a process of almost a decade where pitchers cheated just a little above what the rules allowed. This became the new normal and the rules were adjusted. Repeat. The National League threw in the towel in 1884, allowing full overhand. The American Association held out a little longer, but the writing was on the wall. The modern delivery rules, with the pitcher taking one step off his back foot, was enacted in 1887 as a response.

    For anyone interested in such esoterica, this kind of stuff is exactly what my book is about: https://www.amazon.com/Strike-Four-Evolution-Richard-Hershberger/dp/153812114X/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=strike+four&qid=1591112728&sr=8-1

  26. Thanks, I was hoping you’d drop in again to clarify!

  27. Kindle $28.44
    Hardcover $26.50

    Odd that the Kindle version is pricier.

  28. Richard Hershberger says:

    I have been fascinated to see Amazon’s pricing algorithm in action. It is quite mysterious. The price can jump nearly fifteen dollars. The current price is near the low end of the range, so grab it if you are interested. My baseless speculation is that when they have multiple copies they sell them with only a modest discount off the list price. Then when they are down to one copy they drop the price to move it quickly. But then they reorder (or perhaps for more retail orders?) and list it at the higher price again. I suggest this not because it makes a lick of sense to me, but as the best interpretation of the patterns I have seen. I while back I noticed the price down to about $22 or so. I posted this on my Facebook feed. The price immediately jumped back up. I speculate that some lucky purchaser got it at the low price. All the later people looking at it saw it at the higher price, since Amazon would have to reorder it from the publisher.

    FWIW, I think it works better in paper than in ebook. I like ebooks for the sort of book where you start at the beginning and read through to the end. This would work that way, but it is also the sort of book where you might want to look up something specific. The usual navigation tools work, but are a bit clunky.

    EDIT: I just looked again and noticed that it ships from “sweethomeliquid2”. This presumably is a third party seller, rather than Amazon stocking it directly. My guess is it buys the books at wholesale from the publisher and sets the price as described above.

    EDIT 2: Looking yet closer, there is a list of third party sellers, plus Amazon itself, offering the book at various prices. So what we are seeing is inventory management of various sellers, with the lowest price at any given moment the main listing. The highest price of the bunch has four copies. My guess is that at some point they will drop the price to get the front listing, and when they have sold three of them drop the price even more to get it off the shelf.

  29. Yes, I’ve noticed Amazon’s variable pricing. I think I’ll put it on my wish list; that way I’ll notice if the price drops.

  30. Amazon’s original business model was not to ever have books on hand. They would take a purchaser’s money, order the book from the publisher, and not have to pay the publisher until Amazon had the book in hand. The idea was to earn interest on the float, since they would never have to front any cash for their stock. This ran into problems when it was discovered that: 1) Internet businesses were just not nearly as profitable as people were expecting them to be (the end of the dot-com boom), and 2) that business strategy didn’t work for books that were highly in demand (like a newly-released Harry Potter sequel). So Amazon starting building its own warehouses to stock things they thought would be in demand—largely undermining the biggest advantage they originally had in the marketplace—although they still try to avoid actually paying for things until they have received customer orders for them. That’s why so many of their offerings are sold by third-party affiliates now; the affiliates have to pay to have the physical books (or whatever else) on hand, and Amazon just does their marketing for them, taking a cut of the gross earnings in exchange.

    However, in fact, the sales of physical stuff is all chump change for Amazon now. It never was particularly profitable—and still is not—but in the process of building out their infrastructure, they discovered that they were getting really good at managing a Web-based business on the largest possible scale. Their technology, infrastructure, and expertise are what they really make money selling now, through Amazon Web Services.

  31. I suspect that the convention of calling this a “run” came before the niceties of no balls and wides and the like.

    The earliest references to scoring in cricket use the term “notches” rather than “runs”, scoring literally involving the scoring of notches on sticks and players being referred to as “running a notch”. The earliest references are in the eighteenth century and persist until the early nineteenth century when use of the term “runs” for the units of scoring came to dominate. The awarding of runs for no balls and wides was not introduced until the laws of 1829 and the idea of defining a boundary to the field of play and awarding distinct scores for hitting the ball across it seems not to have come in until 1844. However the laws of 1755 state that the umpires “are sole judges of all hindrances … and in case of hindrance may order a notch to be scored” which suggests that it was possible to score without running (though possibly only if attempting to run).

    Perhaps the term does make more sense in cricket than baseball but baseball does seem to adhere more literally to the need for the batter to cover ground in motion to score; as I understand it, the rules of baseball require that even after hitting, say, an out-of-park home run the batter still needs to physically run the bases to score whereas a cricketer who hits a six, say, is not required to make ground ceremonially six times by advancing three times up and down the wicket to be awarded the runs.

  32. When I was very young, I thought “run” in baseball parlance was short for “home run.” That seemed to make sense, because a point was scored by running safely to home plate.

  33. Man, this Graeber book is good. The following passage is not LH material, but I’m putting it here so I can refer to it later (and in the hope that people might find it stimulating enough to check the book out):

    “Patriarchy” originated, first and foremost, in a rejection of the great urban civilizations in the name of a kind of purity, a reassertion of paternal control against great cities like Uruk, Lagash, and Babylon, seen as places of bureaucrats, traders, and whores. The pastoral fringes, the deserts and steppes away from the river valleys, were the places to which displaced, indebted farmers fled. Resistance, in the ancient Middle East, was always less a politics of rebellion than a politics of exodus, of melting away with one’s flocks and families—often before both were taken away. There were always tribal peoples living on the fringes. During good times, they began to take to the cities; in hard times, their numbers swelled with refugees—farmers who effectively became Enkidu once again. Then, periodically, they would create their own alliances and sweep back into the cities once again as conquerors. [The Old Testament has an “extraordinary emphasis… on the absolute authority of fathers.”]

    The world’s Holy Books—the Old and New Testaments, the Koran, religious literature from the Middle Ages to this day—echo this voice of rebellion, combining contempt for the corrupt urban life, suspicion of the merchant, and often, intense misogyny. One need only think of the image of Babylon itself, which has become permanently lodged in the collective imagination as not only the cradle of civilization, but also the Place of Whores. [Cites Revelation on Babylon as “the great whore.”] Such is the voice of patriarchal hatred of the city, and of the angry millennial voices of the fathers of the ancient poor. [Quotes Gerda Lerner on the origins of prostitution in debt slavery and the consequent need “to distinguish clearly and permanently between respectable and non-respectable women,” leading to the adoption of veiling.] States seem to have played a complex dual role, simultaneously fostering commoditization and intervening to ameliorate its effects: enforcing the laws of debt and rights of fathers, and offering periodic amnesties. But the dynamic also led, over the course of millennia, to a systematic demotion of sexuality itself from a divine gift and embodiment of civilized refinement to one of its more familiar associations: with degradation, corruption, and guilt.

    Here I think we have the explanation for that general decline of women’s freedoms that may be observed in all the great urban civilizations for so much of their history.

    It has been becoming clearer and clearer to me for some years that true civilization can be measured in the extent of women’s rights, and I have zero patience with arguments for the deep cultural importance of [insert misogynist practice here]. If women choose to, say, veil themselves, let them, but if you impose it by law, you’re a misogynist asshole.

  34. More:

    When the curtain truly goes up on Greece, in the fifth century, we find everybody arguing about money. For the aristocrats, who wrote most of the surviving texts, money was the embodiment of corruption. Aristocrats disdained the market. Ideally, a man of honor should be able to raise everything he needed on his own estates and never have to handle cash at all. In practice, they knew this was impossible. Yet at every point they tried to set themselves apart from the values of the ordinary denizens of the marketplace: to contrast the beautiful gold and silver beakers and tripods they gave one another at funerals and weddings with the vulgar hawking of sausages or charcoal; the dignity of the athletic contests for which they endlessly trained with commoners’ vulgar gambling; the sophisticated and literate courtesans who attended to them at their drinking clubs, and common prostitutes (porne)—slave-girls housed in brothels near the agora, brothels often sponsored by the democratic polis itself as a service to the sexual needs of its male citizenry. In each case, they placed a world of gifts, generosity, and honor above sordid commercial exchange.

    This resulted in a slightly different play of push and pull than we saw in Mesopotamia. On the one hand, we see a culture of aristocratic protest against what they saw as the lowly commercial sensibilities of ordinary citizens. On the other hand, we see an almost schizophrenic reaction on the part of the ordinary citizens themselves, who simultaneously tried to limit or even ban aspects of aristocratic culture and to imitate aristocratic sensibilities themselves. […]

    The famous Greek obsession with male honor that still informs so much of the texture of daily life in rural communities in Greece hearkens back not so much to Homeric honor but to this aristocratic rebellion against the values of the marketplace, which everyone, eventually, began to make their own. The effects on women, though, were even more severe than they had been in the Middle East. Already by the age of Socrates, while a man’s honor was increasingly tied to disdain for commerce and assertiveness in public life, a woman’s honor had come to be defined in almost exclusively sexual terms: as a matter of virginity, modesty, and chastity, to the extent that respectable women were expected to be shut up inside the household and any woman who played a part in public life was considered for that reason a prostitute, or tantamount to one. The Assyrian habit of veiling was not widely adopted in the Middle East, but it was adopted in Greece. As much as it flies in the face of our stereotypes about the origins of “Western” freedoms, women in democratic Athens, unlike those of Persia or Syria, were expected to wear veils when they ventured out in public.

  35. David Eddyshaw says:

    bureaucrats, traders, and whores

    oh, my!

  36. David Marjanović says:

    That explains a lot, but what about China?

    (China is my go-to example of patriarchy because it makes clear Sapir and Whorf are not involved: not a hint of masculine vs. feminine gender in the languages of that whole region.)

  37. David L says:

    Aristocrats disdained the market. Ideally, a man of honor should be able to raise everything he needed on his own estates and never have to handle cash at all.

    That attitude was alive and well in Victorian Britain (and persists even, yea, unto this day)*. The industrial revolution was what gave Britain its power and influence, but industrialists (many of whom had regrettable northern accents) were looked down upon by the London toffs.

    *Alan Clark, the neo-Nazi son of Kenneth Clark and occasional Tory MP, scornfully remarked somewhere of fellow Tory MP Michael Heseltine that “he was a man who had to buy his furniture.” It took me some time to understand that he meant Heseltine didn’t have the foresight to inherit sufficient home furnishings, upstart little beggar that he was.

  38. PlasticPaddy says:

    @davidL
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Jopling
    He said it, Clark repeated it with attribution.

  39. That explains a lot, but what about China?

    Haven’t gotten to it yet, but he covers it. No Eurocentrist he!

  40. David Eddyshaw says:

    The Assyrian habit of veiling was not widely adopted in the Middle East, but it was adopted in Greece.

    Famously not in Sparta. I don’t think that the Spartans are thought to have been unconcerned with male honour. Maybe oppression of women is a democratic thing? (After all the Romans – not fans of democracy in any sort of ancient or modern sense – didn’t veil their women. Polybius records his amazement at finding perfectly respectable Roman ladies at dinner parties.)

    not a hint of masculine vs. feminine gender in the languages of that whole region

    I think we can be entirely confident that grammatical gender has nothing whatsoever to do with patriarchy. There’s no grammatical gender in the language zenana comes from …

  41. David Eddyshaw says:

    Utterly off-topic, but “zenana” reminded me of

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Service_Fellowship

    which up until 1957 had the frankly much better name “Zenana Bible and Medical Mission.” Up until then it was entirely run and staffed by women, and was primarily medical in its focus. When I first encountered the organisation (as BMMF) it was still (happily) very female-dominated. I don’t know how it is today, but I suspect entropy will have taken its toll.

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