The stock market has been a bit topsy-turvy since the new Year – and much of its volatility seems to be connected to the downward spiral of gas costs. You would think that the lowering of gas pricing is a good thing – producing more discretionary income etc to boost the economy – but gas has its tendrils in many many areas that make its descent in value not necessarily a good thing. While we in the US may enjoy being able to fill up our gas tanks and even again purchase gas guzzlers like SUV’s once more – the fact is that more than 50 percent of all oil consumption is outside our country – particularly in the once booming countries such as Russia, China and India. However this global growth (or maybe it was a bubble after all) has slowed precipitously. Russian President Vladimir Putin is so concerned that his country’s economy, so intricately reliant on gas pricing is now in a precarious position that he had blamed the Saudi Arabian government of orchestrating “economic terrorism” by glutting the oil markets with supply. We might wonder why he is picking on the Saudis, while US’ fracking procedures have upped our oil production and many countries are seeing success in turning to more efficient, and cleaner forms of energy (read my post on this here for a great example) so are less reliant on fossil fuels. But lowered prices mean job losses in those oil-producing areas (think Texas) which will have a ripple effect across the globe. It’s all about the $$$$.
Hmm – now where did that instantly recognizable, little symbol come from? My obsession with derivations has kicked in so I did some research. And as seen with other forms of typography (click to read my expose on the “Octothorpe” otherwise known as #) there is no one definitively agreed upon source. Here are some that I found:
1 – Many theories seem to point to Hispanic origin. I am sure you have noticed that in many swashbuckling stories, pirates and/or other such adventurers were always on the hunt for those elusive “pieces of eight.” Here is what one looks like – see if you can identify a familiar shape on one side:
See that symbol between the two four-petal flowers at about 4 o’clock? That is a mint mark of superimposed letters PTSI, which stands for Petosi, a remote area in the mountains of Bolivia where the coins were produced during the 15th and 16th centuries. It’s not a long stretch to imagine that correspondence about monetary projects over time mutated that symbol into the $ sign. Also note that the $ symbol similarly appears in the coin’s depiction of the “Pillars of Hercules” (promontories that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar between Great Britain and Spain).
It gets even more fascinating. These coins, “peso de ocho” in Spanish were silver coins that were produced to be the equivalent of the German “thaler”. Sounds like dollar, right? Coincidence? I think not. The peso, or Spanish dollar was used as international currency at the time because it was fairly uniform in production.
And deeper, still for the abbreviation for peso is “p” – and many late 18th and early 19th century manuscripts show that an “s” started to be written over the “p” as in ‘ps’, to denote plural and the result was a close equivalent to the $ sign of today.
While the above makes a good case, what about the double slash dollar sign as it is illustrated in the first graphic of this post? Is there a difference between a single slash and double slash dollar sign?
2 – The theories that I unearthed for the double slash dollar sign are sadly less exotic than the above. Simply it has been postulated that this symbol came from the use of a S superimposed on top of a U to denote the United States. This “monogram” was used to mark money bags issued by the US Mint. The bottom curve of the “U” merged with the bottom curve of the “S” thus leaving two vertical lines.
Of these two theories – which do you think is the most accurate? Or, which do you like best?
Alas, I honestly think the $ is a bit too pedestrian – I prefer the more fanciful origin story of the hash/pound/octothorpe symbol and as such it will continue to grace the end of my posts.
So, until next week: