It is well known that commerce tends to dominate the transmission of culture across geographical divides and ethnic lines. It is the merchants, arriving from afar, who chiefly barter the achievements and accoutrements of diverse civilizations; it is businessmen who tie the world together.
Knowing this, we are hardly surprised to learn that history’s earliest examples of shared international vocabulary—words and phrases commonly adopted across deep linguistic divisions—derived from the lexicon of commerce. The traveling salesman, as he transported his commodities, transmitted also the terms of trade. When merchandise made its way across the world, mercantile expressions tagged along, if onl . . .
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