Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Balancing the Budget

The prudent householder keeps a budget, a systematic plan for spending that will not exceed income. The word budget comes from the French bouge, a bag, usually made of leather. A bougette was a small bag or wallet.

Thick leather sacks of various sizes were used by workmen to carry nails and tools. Sharp points or edges would have penetrated other materials, so it was a matter of safe transport.

The name was soon applied to a small purse or wallet used to store money. As long as there was something left in the little leather purse, you were within budget.

Wyclif’s Bible contained the base word bouge in Psalm 32:7, though in an image that seems a bit strained to contemporary ears: “And he gaderith togidere the watris of the see as in a bowge; and settith depe watris in tresours.” [And he gathers together the waters of the sea as in a leather pouch.]

No one seems sure where the word wallet came from. Speculations include wattle (wrappings, as a bandage), to wall (to go on a pilgrimage), and wielwan, to wrap. The word purse tracks back to the Greek bursa, a leather hide.

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