Friday, May 7, 2010


Do you know what pecuniary means?

A couple days ago, while working in the children's department at my library, a man sat at child-height table working on his computer. Barefoot. His military-style boots sat unused beneath the table. For a time he walked a lap around the room every 10 or so minutes. Barefoot. This you might expect of a three-year-old. But not him. I shelved some books near his table. He pulled out his ear-buds and asked, "Do you know what pecuniary means?" I said, "I'm pretty sure it has to do with money." He laughed in that way that alerted me to the fact that he might be flirting with me but it was hard to tell, and said, "I thought you might know, since you're a librarian you have a few extra IQ points. And I thought I'd borrow some of that knowledge. The wonderful thing about knowledge is that you can share it, but still keep it." And he laughed some more. I sort of acquiesced to the awkwardness of this and moved on, thinking that he was sitting in front of a computer and could have used and borrowed their knowledge and IQ points.

I returned to the reference desk and used myself. The first definition: of or pertaining to money. So, I'd steered him the right direction despite the fact that I had no context for his question. The strange thing is, I don't know why I knew the answer so readily. It was like the definition was resting in an area of my brain just waiting to be exercised. And of the handful of people that I told the story to, not one of them knew what the word meant. Strange. I guess I'm going to have to thank my dad for being a user of unusual words and my mom for all those years of teaching.

And so another day at the library passes...


Margaret said...

The only reason I know what that means is because it's on nearly every Paralegal exam, just waiting to trip an unwary student up with it's meaning. You know "pecuniary damages" instead of "monetary damages."

Kim said...

I actually know what that means! FINALLY the 4 years of Latin from high school have paid off!!!

PS - whatever happened with the spider?

liz nelson said...

i did know that and i was thinking it was probably because of dad, but now seeing kim's comment, it may actually be one of those things i learned in latin as well...

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