Q: On the back of a one-dollar bill, there is a Great Seal showing a pyramid with Latin expressions above and below. What do these mean? (Asked by a Latin-lacking reader.)

A: Would you believe I took Latin in high school? As the saying goes, “Latin is a language as dead as can be. It killed the Romans and it’s sure killing me.”

I don’t remember much — maybe “Veni, Vidi, Vici” (as Julius said, “I came, I saw, I conquered”). However, my Latin training has helped me in knowing the basis and meaning of many English words.

Okay, let’s all pull out a dollar bill. On the back left, you’ll find the Great Seal with the pyramid. This seal was designed by Benjamin Franklin and others. Above is the phrase, “Annuit Coeptis,” which means, “God has favored our undertaking.” Below, “Novus Ordo Seclorum,” meaning, “A new order has begun.” At the base of the pyramid, there are Roman numerals for 1776. Note, there are 13 steps on the pyramid. (Can you guess what for?)

There’s more symbolism in the pyramid. Note that the front of the pyramid is lighter, but the west side is darker. This perhaps symbolizes the westward expansion of the United States. The pyramid is uncapped, signifying that things are not finished. Inside the capstone is an all-seeing eye, an ancient symbol of divinity.

Now, turn the bill over to the front side and note the Department of Treasury Seal on the right. At the top of the seal, you will see a scale, which symbolizes a balanced budget. (Those were the good old days!)

You can now put your dollar bill away, or send it to the Curiosity Corner.

That was a short one, so here’s something that came across my computer monitor. I don’t know the source, but I thought it was worth sharing:

“Playing Wyth Wurds”

  • A backward poet writes inverse.

  • Shotgun wedding: a case of wife or death.
  • A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
  • Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?
  • A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
  • He has a photographic memory that was never developed.
  • Yes, I know these are cheesy, but I had to have something to finish out the column!

    C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): “The lack of money is the root of all evil.” — Mark Twain

    Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or e-mail jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to curiosity-corner.net.