Monday, February 19, 2007

Filthy Lucre

I find the phrase filthy lucre semantically bountiful, with its oxymoronic hint of silvery luster besmirched by something shameful, perhaps even feces; its ambivalent conjurings of lust, Lucifer, and luck, all puritanically punished by the adjective filthy. As pointed out by the American Heritage Dictionary entry linked above, William Tyndale's 1526 English translation of the Bible used the phrase "filthy lucre," and the two words are now inseparably linked, at least in English. (Any readers of foreign tongue are invited to weigh in with their own versions of this phrase.)

I'm no Freudian (or even Jungian) psychoanalyst, but it has been said talking about money is the last taboo. An article by Alina Tugend in The New York Times of February 3, 2007, noted how, at least in America, people will divulge revelations of sexual abuse or details of sexual intimacy way more readily than financial secrets, especially among siblings, co-workers, and neighbors. In fact, the article noted that an anthology of 22 writers, called Money Changes Everything, edited by Elissa Schappell and Jenny Offill, lost out on the contribution of Writer 23. "He had written about his drug addiction, about a nervous breakdown, but he would not write about money."

Some say our obsession to have more than the next guy, or gal, is fueled by this secrecy; others say it is simply envy, or greed, or materialism, or media marketing. A movement known as voluntary simplification is seen as an antidote to this acquisition fever. Similarly, some call for a commercial-free childhood.

I wonder if athletes get terribly upset when their exorbitant salaries are announced. I have little doubt Armando Benitez and others would prefer that such facts be kept secret. I call it the price of fame. (Obviously, the price of fame is too high a cost for many, witness the current or former behavior of many celebrities.)

It turns out blogging is a salutary vehicle for many who are hugely in debt. They talk about it openly but more or less anonymously. One couple blogs about it. It's apparently easier than face to face.

I don't know where I'm going with any of this. At first I was going to write about semicolons, but I got sidetracked. Now I've run out of steam (John Dryden once scathingly wrote of "...the steaming ordures of the stage...").

Filthy Lucre just seemed like a more alluring topic. It's no wonder a band chose it as a name.

What would be the opposite of filthy lucre? Clean Cash? Pristine Profit?

Just doesn't have the same ring to it. Plus, is it really possible to have pristine profit?


Dafath said...

Money is a kind of poetry
Wallace Stevens

the opposite of filthy lucre

Penguin said...

Well, I can waigh in on one part of this. I've never been obsessed to have more than the next person; I just wanted enough to pay my bills, live in an above-average house, drive a sexy car, and give my child a good education. EAch time I've had it, I've lost it. I'd say someone elses need for filthy lucre is what did it.
Interesting post.

azgoddess said...

"If you believe we need more stuff and junk produced in third-world countries by underpaid workers and sold by mega-corporations, then we may not have much to offer you."

this is a quote from the simple living network -- wow, i've found people like me!!

so many thanks!!

and i'm not laughing with this post but certainly thinking a lot!! smile

Glamourpuss said...

Filthy Lucre.

Clean Barter?