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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Friday, April 27, 2012


We Canadians are busily finishing off our tax returns, and contemplating how much of our salary gets swallowed up in taxes. Where does the word "salary" come from? Roman soldiers received an allowance to buy salt, which was a very important commodity in the ancient world as a preservative for meat and fish. The Latin name for this allowance was salarium, derived from sal (salt). Eventually, salarium came to apply to the soldiers' regular pay, ultimately giving us our word “salary”. If you get your tax return in by Monday night's deadline, you will be thinking that the government's chunk is much more than a pinch of salt!

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About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.