I was walking down the corridor towards the office of my boss. I had nothing to worry about, but everyone around me had an anxious look. I suppose they were worried that he was going to fire me after firing my manager. People were even writing petitions to my boss, demanding to leave me alone. Silly! He never gave any hint of firing me. One woman, my friend, stopped me and told me not to worry. I just nodded, and calmly entered my boss’ office.
“So, I keep getting petitions and all kinds of demands about not firing you,” said my boss, Mr. Taylor. “It’s like everyone has gone insane after I fired your manager! I let her off on good terms, and never had the slightest thought of firing you!” he continued. “Yeah, I thought so too,” I agreed. My boss sighed, sipping his orange pekoe tea. “By the way, would you like some?” he asked, reaching for a spare cup. I gladly accepted the offer, and soon was also enjoying some steamy tea. “You’ll meet your new manager tomorrow; he’s a great guy,” mentioned Mr. Taylor. “And because so many people stood up for you, although unnecessarily, you can ask for something,” he continued. “Like, what? A promotion or a bigger salary?” I asked. “Yup,” he said smiling, “and I am even ready to give you another salary bonus!” He started to laugh, trying to hide it, and reached into his desk.
Naturally, I was confused. Yet, I was even more confused after I saw what it was he put on the table. “Excuse me?” I said. “Salt!” laughed my boss. I just stared blankly at the handful of salt in a bag, realizing that Mr. Taylor wanted to play a joke, but not understanding its point. Having had his fun, my boss saw that I was puzzled, and sighed. “Ehh, fine, I will explain,” he said.
“Romans used to use salt instead of money for commerce and trade. Especially, the soldiers, who got a handful of salt as their daily payment,” started my boss. “The root ‘sal’ in the word ‘salary’ means ‘salt’,” he clarified further. “Pliny the Elder first mentioned this link between salt and the word ‘salary’. Later, soldiers were paid a ‘salarium’, which is the amount of money enough to buy some salt,” he said. “Why salt, though,” I asked, getting intrigued. “Apparently, salt was an expensive commodity at the time. It kept food from spoiling,” Mr. Taylor answered. “Then, ‘salarium’ was used to describe the regular, instead of one-time, pay for soldiers. Then, it was used as a regular payment to the empire officials. Even later, in Middle English, ‘salarie’ was used to describe any money paid to a worker,” continued my boss. He clearly seemed proud of himself for being able to tell a fun fact like this.
“Very informative,” I laughed, finishing my tea. “Wait, does the word ‘soldier’ then derive from salt as well?” I suddenly wanted to know. “Hmmm, maybe, but that is not for sure,” he answered. I nodded, shaking his hand and preparing to leave his office. “I was planning to give you a promotion anyways since you’re certainly worth my salt!” exclaimed my boss, concluding our meeting. I smiled and left.