Monday, January 25, 2010

Old Treasury Department Seal

I walked by the Treasury Department building this afternoon and noticed this old Latin seal. It struck my eye because of its heavily abbreviated text: THESAUR. AMER. SEPTENT. SIGIL. = Thesaur[i] Ameri[icae] Septent[rionalis] Sigil[um], or "Seal of the Treasury of North America." The designation of "North America" intrigues me. Did the US originally think it would claim all of North America (including Canada?).

Why is the text so abbreviated? The skeptic in me imagines two possible explanations: 1. It's the treasury department, so they are simply being cheapskates and saving money/space by abbreviating; 2. It cuts down the possibility of linguistic errors - if you just leave off the end of the words you (conveniently) don't have to worry about all the tricky Latin declensions.

For more on this seal (which was apparently replaced in 1968), see this website.

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