Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Filthy Lucre

We covered slang terms for money on a recent program (wtcmradio.com). Among the offerings called in was “filthy lucre.” Lucre came from a Latin word, lucrum, which meant profit. But already in Roman times, a negative connotation began to creep in. Lucrum also came to mean avarice.

The pairing of filthy and lucre was meant, of course, to highlight the sinfulness of immoderate or greedy desire for wealth, and this was soon applied to the money itself. The phrase shows up in Titus 1:15. In the Greek version of the New Testament, the pairing came from the adjective αισχροσ (aischros, shameful or disgraceful) and the noun κερδοσ (kerdos, gain, profit, or advantage).

The phrasing “filthy lucre” was first used by William Tyndale in his translation of the Bible, and the same pairing was copied in many versions, among them the King James Bible, the American Standard Version, the Douay-Rheims Bible, the English Revised Version, and Young’s Literal Translation.

The Greek adjective meaning shameful worked its way into a couple of other rare words in English. Aischrolatreia means the cult of obscenity and the pursuit of the nasty, and aischrologia (aischrology) is filthy language or obscene speech.


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