Being Wordsy: The Origin of “Salary”

Salt is so commonplace today, so cheap and readily available, that it is hard to remember how hard to come by it once was. The Roman forces who arrived in Britain in the first century C.E reported that the only way the local tribes could obtain it was to pour brine onto red-hot charcoal, then scrape off the crystals that formed on the wood as the water hissed and evaporated. These were the same forces that, according to a tradition dating to the time of Pliny the Elder, gave us the word “salary” because they once received their wages in the stuff.

– Mike Dash in the Smithsonian Magazine blog Past Imperfect post about how salt made and unmade Turks and Caicos.

I didn’t realize that was where the word salary comes from, but it makes sense. I wonder how much salt would equal the 2% deduction in my paycheck now that the payroll tax cut has lapsed.

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