Budging language

Budging language

As the major Feast Days in the cult of Mammon, budgets have their own rituals and archaic language. Why, for example, are budgets brought down? The answer may lie in the origins of the word. Budget comes from bougette, an old French word for the little leather bag that later became a purse or wallet. So, in the 18th century they spoke of the annual budget being opened. Later on, as politics become more personalised, all eyes were drawn to the Chancellor’s entry to Parliament with his battered case. He brought down the budget with him.

The bougette itself had a circular journey, from the Latin bulga which itself was imported from Gaul to denote the soldier’s knapsack. Ominously for later Treasurers, it appears that rubbery figures and inflation are not a budgetary aberration, but are embedded into the structure of language: from bulga also comes the English word, bulge. Some lexicographers have more adventurously also seen the colloquial phrase, silver budgie, as cognate with budget, referring, as the phrase does, to the fortunate condition of one who has the best treasurer in the world. Conservative lexicographers, it must be said, consider this derivation fanciful.

A rich legacy

The death of Fr Bill Dalton sj in May merits notice for the loss both of a genial teacher and scholar, and of a significant bridge between the earlier and the contemporary Catholic Church. Bill, who studied Scripture and began teaching in the late 1950s, was one of a generation of teachers who studied overseas. Through their efforts, theology in Australia changed from a seminary activity undertaken selflessly but with limited resources, into a professional discipline.

He was also good at crossing boundaries. He initiated ecumenical conversations with scholars in other churches, and brought Jesuit theological studies from a semi-rural setting to the very different living conditions and study environment of Melbourne. His friendship with his fellow Scripture scholar, Dr Davis McCaughey, then Master of Ormond College and later Governor of Victoria, was vital for the ecumenical character of the United Faculty of Theology. Bill later was Superior of the Biblical College in Rome and the Biblical Institute in Jerusalem. In personality, he represented the best of the early days of Vatican II—he was expansive, confident and convivial. He left a large legacy for his successors to spend generously.



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