Thursday, October 30, 2008

Learning new things perqs me up

I just learned something interesting. I was reading the latest book-club pick, Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, when I came upon this sentence, relating to a stonemason working on building a new cathedral for a priory during the Middle Ages:

His pay was only twenty-four pennies a week, although he got perquisites as well, candles and robes and boots.


We've all heard the word "perks," as in "That guy makes a boatload of money, plus perks!" or "I don't make much in terms of a salary, but I do get some nice perks." I had always assumed that this was a cute term for something that would "perk" up your base pay. I guess I never really gave it much thought. But is it actually perqs we're talking about, short for perquisites?

I looked it up, and sure enough:

perquisite. Middle English. Property acquired by means other than inheritance. From Anglo-French perquisit, Medieval Latin perquisitum.

So we're going around using a cute, modern abbreviation and spelling for what turns out to be a medieval term!

Maybe everyone already knows this, but I didn't.

As I used to say in sixth grade: Neato.