Today I learned that we use lb as the abbreviation for pounds (weight) because language is a fuck


Specifically the Romans measured things in "libra" (which is why the symbol for Libra is a scale), but people under the Romans who used Proto-Germanic heard the phrase "libra pondo" (Latin for "the weight measured in libra") and just started being like "haha oh yeah this thing is X pondo heavy". So the word "pound" is derived from the Latin word for "weight" ("pondus") but we use "lb" because that's how the Romans abbreviated libra, the actual unit of measurement they used.

@infernusgoatus In French the word for "pound" is "livre", the circle is complete

@jkb Some years back whilst looking into what money is and/or isn't, I realised that virtually all names for money fall into one of the following categories:

Units of weight (pound, peso, shekel, livre, libra, lira, penny, peso, hryvnia, frank, mark, bhat, ...)
Divisions (dime, dinarius, quarter, "pieces of eight", possibly shilling & ruble).
Some indicator of quality, metalic content, or reputational value (crown, krone, kroner, dollar, guilder, royal, real, florin, sovereign, kip, rupee, yen, yuan, won, zloty, ...)
Close to above, a toponym or other locally-significant name (afghani, bolivar, euro, leonoe, ...)

My interpretation: money is a fixed quality, quantity, or certified / trusted value.


@dredmorbius @infernusgoatus Also worth of note: many informal names for money are related to grain. English is not my first language so I can't think of anything other than "dough", but in French we have "blé" (wheat), "oseille" (buckwheat), or "fric" (the Arabic word for crushed wheat)

@mdhughes The English slang of "bread" for "money" dates only to the 1940s.

I don't know what the case is for other languages (e.g., French).

@jkb @infernusgoatus

@RyunoKi Quality and weight respectively.

"Taler" comes from Joachimstaler, which referred to silver coin from Joachimstal ("Joachim's Vallley"), where a widely renowned silver mine operated. A jochimstaler had a reputation for high-purity silver. I'm considering that a quality indicator.

"Mark" in the coinage sense was a weight measure of about eight ounces (about 225 grams).

@jkb @infernusgoatus

@dredmorbius @RyunoKi @jkb @infernusgoatus

Afaik, the Mark was only introduced in Germany in 1871. Before, different currencies were used in different regions of Germany. The highest unit was the Thaler, and then there were (depending on the region) Gulden, different kinds of Groschen, Schilling, Heller, Pfennige, Kreuzer.

The typical abbreviation for Gulden was fl. - which stands for Florin.

@OldGermanScript @dredmorbius @RyunoKi @jkb @infernusgoatus incidentally I wondered about that question a few months ago already, and research turned out that there were many other Marks used as currency before 1871, going back to the 11th century

@OldGermanScript Well, there was no unified "Germany" prior to 1871, so the fact that there was no unified currency would follow.

This highlights the distinction between a state, which is a political entity, and a nation, which is a cultural entity.

The German nation includes not only the present state of the Federal Republic Germany, but also of Austria, and parts of Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Czechia, Russia (Kalingrad, formerly Königsberg), and probably others. This is a cultural entity in which there's a long historical tradition of inhabitants who speak German and follow German cultural traditions.

The notion of a unified nation-state, in which the cultural nation exists as a single political state, which largely emerged during the 19th century, and in particular during the revolutions of 1848.

There is no inherent reason that a state be comprised of a single nationality (Swizerland, mentioned above, includes citizens of German, French, Italian, and Romanian cultures or nations), and of course, a single nationality may be divided over multiple states, with the German cultural nationality being a case in point, Korean nationality would be another that comes to mind.

Note that currency need not be a state-imposed concept either. Roman coinage (product of an empire comprised of many nationalities) was used well after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. There are black, grey, and official economies which are based on currencies of other countries. The US dollar is not only the global reserve currency, but is the official currency of Ecuador, Zimbabwe, El Salvador, Panama, Bonaire, Pallau, Timor-Leste, Marshall Islands, and several other territories of both the US and other countries (e.g., several British overseas territories and the Netherlands).


@RyunoKi @jkb @infernusgoatus

@OldGermanScript And, one precursor of the modern German state, the Holy Roman Empire, utilised at least four currencies. Wikipedia lists the thaler, guilder, groschen, and Reichsthaler:

@RyunoKi @jkb @infernusgoatus

I believe, some German expats live in Africa and America (the continent).

@OldGermanScript @jkb @infernusgoatus

@RyunoKi To a limited extent, yes.

There are a few German communities within countries in Africa and the Americas, but as a whole cultural influence is limited.

Germany had several African colonies prior to WWI, which it gave up as reparations. Those correspond to regions of present-day Burundi, Cameroon, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Togo, as well as parts of other regions for at least some time. Long-term influence seems limited.

South Africa had a strong Dutch influence, with the Afrikaans language being a dialect of Dutch.

There were German expat communities notably in Brazil, after WWII, many still loyal to wartime German political ideology.

And in the US, the Pennsylvania "Dutch" are actually Deutsch, while the Amish speak a variant of German. These are however largely smaller populations within a larger culture, and not dominant.

@OldGermanScript @jkb @infernusgoatus

@jkb @infernusgoatus same with pesos! Extra funny cos dollar is also a spanish word

@jkb @infernusgoatus Yes, but French *is* essentially Vulgar Latin after being mangled by the French for a few 100 years.

(I think it‘s the romance language structurally closest to Latin, but I may remember that wrong.)

infodumping (i got excited) 

@infernusgoatus this is also why the abbreviations for pounds, shillings, pence in old british currency was L/s/d! L for librae, s i believe was for solidii which could have been corrupted to shilling but I'm not sure, and a solidus was a roman coin, and d for denarii, pennies. A pound was an actual literal pound of silver and there were 240 pence to the pound which evenly divisible by more numbers than any smaller number (240 is "highly composite")

infodumping (i got excited) 

@Lore language is so wild

@RyunoKi Zuckerburg is obsessed with Ancient Roman stuff so that's almost certainly why the cryptocurrency his company was developing was called Libra

@infernusgoatus fun fact also the reason a UK Pound is "£" (stylised "L")

@infernusgoatus i thought a pound was just the force of someone pounding on a scale really hard

@infernusgoatus ah interesting, yeah in spanish a pound is a libra, i always wondered about the lb in english

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