Animals, Money and More
When I was very little, much like many other children, I had a piggy bank in my room in London in the UK. I’d save up my pennies and my pound coins and think of all the wonderful books I’d be able to buy the next time we went to the shops. Sometimes if it was a really special book, and I couldn’t wait for it to be a birthday gift, it would take me quite a few months to collect enough money to cover the cost of it.
For many children all over the world, the piggy bank is their first exposure to finance and the world of money and business. It’s where, like me, you’d put your spare change and pocket money. Perhaps you do some chores and get paid for them – this little home bank is the place to store those coins.
But the Piggy Bank actually has a very long history, going all the way back to 1450. That’s the earliest date the term is recorded in the dictionaries. Back then, before there were banks, people would put their money into an earthenware pot called ‘a pygg’. Years later when potters were thinking about designs, they took that word and took the farmyard animal and ta-da, the traditional piggy bank was created. Nowadays, piggy banks can come in all shapes and sizes. They can look like any animal or shape.
When I was eight I decided I wanted to be a journalist and tell people’s stories. I secretly also wanted to be an author. But you can’t do anything really unless you come up with a way to make money to pay for things like food, bills, housing. That could mean you become an entrepreneur and have your own ideas about business, or you could work for a company and they pay you money for your services. You could invest your money in businesses you think might become successful and take the money you’ve put in and help it grow. For some people they have to rely on their government to help them survive.
But even when you have money, you have to learn how to use it well. This is known as becoming financially literate. Research suggests that two out of three people around the world are unable to understand money matters which affect their daily lives. Many governments and organisations are trying to change that.
A few years ago I found out there were lots and lots of animal words which could be used to help make the business world less scary and help people understand their money better. I teamed up with an illustrator called Dominic Bailey and we started to investigate for our book called Bear Markets and Beyond: A Bestiary of Business Terms. A bestiary is a word that emerged in Medieval times and is a type of animal reference book.
We discovered that business beasts pop up everywhere. As well as the piggy bank at home, you’ve got Bear Markets – which happens when stocks and shares fall – and Bull Markets – which happen when the price of stocks and shares are on the rise. Cash Cows are named because they are products that are always able to make money somehow. And when the coronavirus pandemic started to spread around the world, there were people who would stockpile essential items like toilet paper and pasta. It turns out there is a German word called Hamsterkauf which was ideally suited to describe what was going on. Hamsterkauf translates to ‘hamster purchase’ and is another phrase for panic buying.
There are animal terms for the way people behave too when it comes to their investments. Meerkats are constantly on the lookout and want to know just how well their money is doing, while Sheep investors find it hard to figure out just what they actually want. There are even terms relating to workers and technology. A Unicorn company, for example, is one that’s worth $1bn, while someone who was down for the Lobster Shift in a newsroom, knew they’d be up all night working.
The world’s economy is something that’s really important. It’s about how different governments, organisations, people, at all levels manage money and other financial resources they have access to. Sometimes it seems like it can be a very closed off world but any steps that can be made to make it easier to understand are being celebrated. Even animals like ours…
Bear Markets and Beyond: A Bestiary of Business Terms is published by Portico, an imprint of Pavilion Books
Voice of Dhruti Shah
Award-winning journalist, writer, producer and storyteller. Well versed in creating digital strategies from scratch, development, presenting, newsgathering, giving social media accounts a unique voice, verification and debunking fake news, training, coaching and motivating young journalists. I am innately curious and have written on subjects including technology, business, women changing the world, comics, science and much more. I have a wealth of editorial experience built up first in local papers before jumping to global newsrooms. I have led record-making BBC international partnership projects. I’m always up for an adventure. I’ve been described as an ‘ideas factory’ and have a knack for spotting unusual ideas which audiences like.
Writer - Dhruti Shah
Illustrator - Dominic Bailey