Learning Isn’t Always Pleasant

I haven’t had much time for perusing The New York Times lately. That’s too bad, because there are so many things to learn from it. Not only are the articles interesting, but it often offers up words that I’ve never heard before. For example, the 4/1/18 issue contained “hermeneutic” (a noun that means “a method of interpretation”).

On the other hand, not all of these learning experiences are pleasant. For example, the 3/25/18 edition contained an article called “How to Clean Money,” in which writer Malia Wollan used the word “palimpsest” (a noun meaning “a piece of writing material that gets used again after the old writing has been erased”). I’d heard the word before, but I couldn’t remember what it meant. I felt compelled to look it up, and that’s good, because I learned something.

But I learned more than I wanted to know. The author used the word in an icky context, which I’m going to share, because misery loves company.

At the microscopic level, because cash is so highly trafficked, it becomes a sort of palimpsest that records all the hands and back pockets and piggy banks it has passed through, accreting a kind of monetary microbiome. A study of $1 bills in New York identified a total of 397 bacterial species. Swiss researchers discovered that when they smeared bills with mucus from children with the flu, the virus lived for up to 12 days.

Ew. I already knew that money was covered with germs. The mucus part was extra gross, though, and I’m not sure knowing the lifespan of flu virus is a helpful thing. It just makes me want to avoid touching anything that might have come into contact with children, which is especially difficult if you have children!

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