June 21, 2005 05:03 | Culture / Stories

Money, death and the French

The word "mortgage", which is french, translates directly to "death bet": when the bank gives someone a mortgage, they are essentially gambling on the hopes that the poor sod will pay them back before he dies. In french however, a mortgage is called "une hypothèque", which, while I do not have the exact etymological information on hand, does have the same root as "hypothesis" and "hypothetical". So, 'hypothetically', he'd be paying them back before he "buys the farm", so to speak.

I suppose some frenchman at L'Academie at one point thought "mortgage" was a bit too morbid and blatant. Not that it matters; one has to pass a medical exam and have life insurance these days to get any money from a bank anyways, so it really isn't much of a gamble anymore, is it? Not much sportsmanship left in banking... and faith and trust never worked too well with financial matters to begin with.

Another such an example is "entrepreneur". Also a french word, literally translated it comes out as "between taker", but the meaning is "one who undertakes [something]"... or, put another way, an undertaker...

Go figure.