Monday, November 26, 2018

Linguistic Tidbits: Stocks vs. Pillory (+ Stock and Bull Market Origins)

I'm reading The Scarlet Letter and I discovered that the thing I've been calling "The Stocks" is not actually stocks at all.  It is actually a Pillory.  They're similar but distinct punitive practices both of which center upon confinement in the eye of public scorn and social shame.

It has come to my attention that, technically, the stocks are for confining people by the legs...
Photo from Wikipedia.
...whereas the pillory is for confining people by the head and arms.
Photo from Wikipedia.
While we're at it:
I thought this was possibly the cutest cow I've ever seen, the way his ears and muzzle were dipped in black.
I attended an author lecture earlier this month about the book Up the Trail by Tim Lehman.  There I was informed that the terms "stock" and "bull market" originate with the old cattle operations of the wild west.

Basically, in the days of the open (unfenced) short grass prairie, cattle were just turned loose in places like Montana and Wyoming to graze and make babies.  The cows just did their thing without much management from their owners--and returned a rather nice profit none the less.  ...Until the year they all starved to death because a hard crust of snow made the prairie grass unreachable and the majority of stockmen lost everything.   But, yeah, on a bull market the old cowboys could just make money on their stock without really trying!  And boom, financial terms are born!

I suppose it doesn't really matter, but I love these sort of linguistic tidbits.

2 comments:

  1. That is definitely a cute little cow!! I had no previous notion of the stock/pillory difference; I also thought "stocks" was the right term, even though I knew of the word "pillory".

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  2. I was obsessed with that calf for a couple days there, while I was in his neck of the prairie. I called him Steve. ;)

    I must admit that "pillory" was new to me, which is what prompted me to look it up and fall down the linguistic rabbit hole, so the speak.

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