Signs of the Times

["Paper and Gold," an editorial in The Christian Science Monitor, Boston, U.S.A.]

There is a common saying, which of late has tended to crystallize into a proverb, to the effect that wealth is stored up labor. Such a statement, however, like most accepted economic formulas, is either entirely unsound, or capable of being maintained only by an altogether new definition of labor. One of the most curious phases of the development of language is this appropriation of words in a limited sense. The tendency is so subtle and so irritating that Ruskin himself once declared that the more purely a man wrote, the greater was his danger of being misunderstood. One of those amazing people who find time for such curious calculations claims to have discovered that the ordinary man does his thinking on two hundred and fifty words. A reference to the Oxford dictionary with its twelve colossal volumes will indicate exactly what this means. Mrs. Gamp made aggravation synonymous with irritation. Dominie Sampson compressed a whole library of emotions into the one word "Prodigious!" accentuated to order. And, in the same way, the labor unions have segregated the word "labor" to the kindred occupations of "the grand old gardener."

April 26, 1919

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