The value of words

I’m currenty rereading Louis de Bernières’ series of novels set in a ficticious South American country. In the first book, The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts, the revolutionaries give people receipts whenever they take something from them, and say that they will pay everything back after the revolution. Many of the people who receive these receipts are unable to read them and don’t really understand their purpose, however they are impressed by the writing on them and start using them as an alternative currency. The value of the receipts depends on the number of words, so people ask the revolutionaries to write more on them.

I haven’t been able to discover whether receipts have been or are being used in this way in South America or elsewhere. Does anyone know?

On another matter – Radványi Balázs would like to create a font for his Harta alphabet. If you can help, please contact Balázs at He can supply the images in vector format.

This entry was posted in Language.

3 Responses to The value of words

  1. James P says:

    not that I know of.. but LA is a big place 😉

    He has put his finger on something which is part of the LA mentality, which is that if something is written down then it´s real. The Chileans are very keen on their “tramites”, in triplicate, with lots of fancy stamps on them. Very tedious and rather comical really. Official written documents are very important to them, but they don´t read (in the sense of books, they are able to read) and books are more expensive in absolute terms here than in the USA or UK, and in real terms a novel will cost you about $60.

  2. Phil says:

    I heard that in Nepal, the Maoists give a receipt to tourists they take money from, so that if the tourist then encounters Maoists again, they have proof that they have “donated” to the revolution. The reason they do this is apparently because they want to keep the support of the locals and the locals rely heavily on tourists. If the tourists are scared off, the locals withdraw their support.

  3. Laura M. says:

    Francisco Villa issued his own currency during the Mexican revolution, along with many other interim/provisional governors, issued his own money. Here’s an
    example,. Apparently they were called at the time “Sábanas de Villa” (Villa’s bed sheets). They’re also referred now as “panchólares”.

    Otherwise, I wanted to say I just discovered this blog and I think it’s very informative and interesting. Felicitaciones por el blog!

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