"The letter S appears nowhere in the word “dollar”, yet an S with a line through it ($) is unmistakably the dollar sign. But why an S? Why isn’t the dollar sign something like a Đ (like the former South Vietnamese đồng, or the totally-not-a-joke-currency Dogecoin)?
There’s a good story behind it, but here’s a big hint: the dollar sign isn’t a dollar sign.
It’s a peso sign.
Though the dollar and peso symbols are inextricably linked, the origin of the word “dollar” is rooted in elsewhere. Its story begins in 1500s Bohemia, a central European kingdom spanning most of today’s Czech Republic.
Central Europe had just become rich with silver. After centuries of sending its silver (and gold) abroad in trade for consumable luxuries like silk and spices (very little of which ever found its way back), new sources of silver ore were discovered in Saxony, German Tyrol and Bohemia. With far more silver than still-scarce gold, Tyrol began replacing its teeny-tiny gold coins with big heavy silver coins of equal value. The newly-minted guldengroschen coin, 32g of nearly-pure silver, was an instant hit." (...)
"With the help of a good anthology and a heaping dose of American classics, anyone can be converted to being a lover of poetry. Elisa New, Harvard scholar and host of the new PBS series Poetry in America, recommends her favorite American poets, from Emily Dickinson to Elizabeth Bishop.
You proselytize for poetry as a professor at Harvard and through Poetry in America, a multi-platform program that includes online courses and an intensely-entertaining television series. What inspires you to be such a spirited self-described “poetry evangelist”?
People are so phobic about poetry and so easy to convert. An ‘aha’ moment often occurs after just one poem; people just need a nudge to incorporate poetry into their lives. Plus, the process of opening poetry up is really fun.
Your television series Poetry in America throws off what you’ve called “the scholarly harness.” Tell us about this approach to poetics.
The series endeavors to enhance the experience of poetry using tools that are unique to TV. When I taught Langston Hughes to students, to relay how he was influenced by jazz and blues, I brought a clumsy cassette player to class. When I taught Edna St Vincent Millay, to convey how she embodied ‘the new woman,’ I brought in 1920s magazines so students could see how she wore her hair and her hemlines" (...)