How do you make money?

This is a fun riddle. If you believe that you make money by working, you are in for the surprise of your life.

The last time someone asked you how you make money, what did you say?

Chances are you explained to them what you do while you’re working. As though this is what was asked.

But it isn’t what was asked. It was what your unknown linguistic associations caused you to assume.

The word ‘make’ means bring into existence.

So when someone asks you, ‘how do you make money?’, they are asking you, ‘how do you cause (your) money to come into existence?’

There are two ways to think about this. One is to take it on absolute face value, the meaning of ‘make’ that is ‘create, fashion’. The other is to imagine that the moment of giving, as in, give to you as wages, is also a moment of creation. Your logical mind knows it isn’t, but working through this riddle isn’t a completely logical process.

Money and work are two completely separate things. So how is it that you immediately assume that work causes money to exist?

It’s in the language.

When you trace the origins of the term ‘make’, you learn that the word’s origins (whether West Germanic, Middle Dutch, Old Saxon, Old Frisian, or Old High German) are almost entirely about constructing, fitting, creating, transforming, being the author of something, producing, preparing, and so on.

The Old English form of the word, macian is imagined to have come from the Proto-Indo-European root *mak-.

But still, no mention of work?

None, until you recognise that the Old English term for work was geywrcan, which was ‘prepare, perform, do, make, construct’, etc. It also meant ‘to set in motion’, to create, to be powerful in creation, and to ply one’s trade.

Things get interesting when you learn that the word make replaced wyrcan/geywrcan.

So it is that –

causing to bring into existence money

became –

ply your trade construct money

And yet the working is not the making, and the making is not the working. The working itself is something that you do, a business, a production. It’s manufacturing, and labour; toil at something; a profession or craft.

It is not related to money.

In fact, the history of ‘work’ is just as fascinating as the history of ‘money’.

You may not realise it, but the fact that you dislike work is also a factor of your language. Work used to mean occupation, the things you do all day. Andrea Komlosy, in her book Work: The last 1,000 years described the shift from being occupied, to being forced to be occupied as a result of serfdom, if I am remembering that amazing book correctly. Komlosy points out that everyone always had work to do, but it was characterised as an occupation, the things that needed to be done. Once serfdom arose, it became ‘a chore’, and ‘work’, and you weren’t doing it by choice. That meaning, ‘labour as a measurable commodity’ arose in the 14th century.

So if you think about ‘making money’ and sigh heavily, saying something like, ‘well we’ve all got to work’, you are doing two things:

  1. recognising a state of servitude
  2. believing that your servitude is what causes money to exist in your life.

Boom, what a realisation. In fact, the two have absolutely nothing to do with each other. They are intertwined in your life by your language, not because it’s reality.

But before this makes a whole lot of sense, let’s look at money.

The term ‘money’ has an even more fraught etymology, which takes us back to the Roman Goddess Juno, near whose temple money was ‘coined’. This place of being coined, Moneta, was the title of the aforementioned goddess.

Fascinatingly, the very act of ‘minting’ currency actually means ‘stamping coins’, because it’s the process of stamping that turns it into money. That usage is attested from the 1500s.

All of the foregoing is from Etymology Online.

But let’s go deeper down this burrow.

The word moneta, from which we derive money, ‘is probably from the Latin moneo, to call to mind, to admonish‘.

It did originally refer to Juno. She was mythologised, and is in fact stamped on coins of the Roman Empire. After a while, though, according to one numismatist, the reference to Juno dropped away. In its place was Equity (aequitas), because ‘equity in the Mint is the essential virtue, whether in the quality of the metal used, in the quantity yielded to each coin, or in the character of the engraver’s art’.

Going back to the roots meaning of equity then, we see fairness, equality, uniformity, conformity, symmetry… the very same elements to which aequitas referred in the process of minting coin.

The mythology of Juno was conferred partly through inscriptions. She was referred to as the Goddess Moneta:

In coins of Alexander Severus (A.D. 222) we see the word Restituta, and read it “the Goddess Moneta restored,” that is, the quality of the coinage, which had been debased by his predecessors, was restored. The word SACRA is sometimes found in the legend, implying the sacredness of the charge of making the money of the nation. In place of MONETA we often find the word AEQVITAS or Equity, a very happy expression of the thought, that the principle that should prevail in the coinage of money is Equity.

Morris, Robert. ‘The Goddess Moneta’. in the American Journal of Numismatics, and Bulletin of the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society. Vol. 13, No. 4 (APRIL, 1879), pp. 88-90 (3 pages). Accessed online. URL: Last accessed 18 Oct 2019.

Anyway. That’s taken us a long way from the point.

What we find is that money is a myth. It is the process of creating a coin, and the context of that coin inside a broader myth of value, which is given to a metal (or other object) by a nation’s leaders, that gives us currency.

Incidentally, the word ‘currency’ didn’t come into existence until comparatively recently. The first usage is attested in 1729.

Money is a myth. And your work has absolutely nothing to do with it.

In fact, Juno was also a goddess of love and marriage. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that those who love what they do, who love to serve others (while looking after themselves) tend to be more wealthy than those who just ‘work’ for a living. Hm?

Jim Fortin, who describes himself as a ‘leader in subconscious transformation’ describes money as ‘coming from the universe’, in one of his podcasts. (I believe it might be Episode 9: How the law of Abundance repels the money and abundance you want.) And he may as well. In many ways, money ‘just appears’ whenever you want it.

Perhaps, there is reason to honour Juno. She was a powerful goddess in the Roman pantheon. Daughter of Saturn, she was a protector: Of women, esp in childbirth, of funds, of property.

If you’re going to honour Juno, her day is the 1st of March.

And so is every single day in the month of June, a month that is named after her.

The fact that you finalise your books, and offer your Moneta to the nation at the end of Juno’s month is something, perhaps, that ought not to be ignored.

From this perspective, you can see that it is more of a ritual offering, than a financial one.

Now, having read this, how would you answer the question with which I opened this muse? How do you make money? Drop me a letter and let me know.

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