Tag Archives: accounting

Worth the paper it’s printed on

Those newspaper printers wanted to make a buck. They needed to pay close attention to that ol’ bottom line. ‘Bottom line’ is a jokey way of saying what you get when you subtract how much you spent from how much you made. You get a bigger bottom line (more profit) by reducing what you spend.

Take paper, for instance. Paper is one of the expenses of printing a newspaper. Making paper hadn’t changed much since its invention. It was good stuff. Fiber from linen, wool and cotton rags was broken down into a watery slurry that got pressed into a gorgeous piece of paper.*

Paper must have been a big overhead expense for a newspaper operation in those days. Think about it—what happens to a newspaper the day after it’s published? It lines bird cage floors. Kids make hats out of it. British people use it like a cone to hold their fish ‘n’ chips. Nobody needs a newspaper once it becomes yesterday’s news. Seems a waste of top-quality paper, doesn’t it?

* I know all about it. I shell out extra samolians for rag content paper because it’s such a treat to draw on (I like Borden & Riley #37 Boris Layout Bond. I draw on it with a 2B lead pencil).

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

Don’t forget: I wrote another Western Civ User’s Guide! Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Time & Space.

Writing gets complicated

The Sumerians used a stylus to make symbols in soft clay. The symbols represented things they wanted to count, like stuff they were buying or selling. Think about sheaves of barley; poultry or livestock; pots of olive oil; baskets of dried fish. It was an accounting system for business. There were symbols for counting—numbers—and symbols to represent things—pictograms.

Over a long period of time, though, these symbols developed into a writing system that could record things people say. New meanings were introduced. Sometimes a symbol represented an idea—that’s called an ideogram. For instance, a symbol that looks like the sun may represent the sun (pictogram), or maybe a day or noon or the passage of time (ideogram). A foot symbol might mean a foot (pictogram), or walking or running or a distance (ideogram).

This writing system became pretty complicated. There were thousands of these symbols and more than one meaning for a lot of them. The ordinary shmoes who had used symbols to count their goods could no longer read or write in this system. You had to be trained to do it. You had to be a scribe.


Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.