While visiting a friend in Jacksonville, Florida, I wandered into a small bookstore where the owner still used on old-fashioned cash register that only had keys for a penny, a nickel, and a quarter, and a large slot machine handle. He demonstrated how he rang up a sale, which was a a laborious process that resembled Wi fitness more than a monetary calculation.
On my drive back to Atlanta, it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen a “¢” key for ages. In fact, the last time I remembered a “¢” key being present on a keyboard was in my college typing class. I realized it didn’t bode well for “¢” key since typewriters aren’t often found in the modern business. When I worked for an insurance company many years ago, we once required a typewriter to complete a special form. We combed all 18 floors to track down an old Smith Corona, then stared at it, as we tried to figure out how to turn it on.
I suppose it doesn’t help that everything costs more these days. After all, what can you buy for a penny, anymore? Just the other day, I offered a friend’s little girl a penny for her thoughts. She informed me that due to inflation, her thoughts now went for a minimum of a nickel.
A few months ago, I confused one of the younger booksellers at the bookstore by writing “3¢ over” on the cash drawer log. “What does this mean?” she asked, pointing at the “¢” sign.
“It’s a cent symbol,” I said.
She blinked at me.
“You know, if the amount is less than one dollar.”
“Why don’t you just write ‘$0.03′?”
“Because it requires less strokes of the pen to write ‘3¢,” I said. “Besides, I like the cent symbol.” She stared at me, her face blank. “It’s retro.”
“Ah …” She nodded her head in understanding, and then adopted the symbol herself.
So, I did some research to find out what symbol took the place of the “¢” symbol on the computer keyboard. As it turns out, it’s the “^” or caret, which is Latin for “it lacks” and is used in proofreading to indicate missing punctuation. I can’t recall ever using the caret for anything, except drawing drawing a Christmas tree onscreen a number of years back. Is the caret really more important than the cent symbol?
I discussed this with Biodiesel Ed at the local farmers market. He, of course, blamed it on conservative politicians. “They’re being wined and dined by the powerful and clandestine proofreading industry.” Ed leaned in close. “Their lobbyist has no shame.”
I stepped back and fanned the air. “What’s smell?”
“I’m recycling my urine into drinking water. I’ve almost perfected the process. Would you like some?”
Declining his offer, I stopped by the State Capitol to discuss this with one of my legislators.
“Is it true that you’re being bought off by the proofreading industry to replace the cent symbol on the keyboard with the caret?” I asked.
The legislator chuckled and leaned forward on his desk, steepling his fingers together, then said, “There’s no such thing as global warming.”
“Um, I didn’t ask about global warming.”
He blinked, then smiled. “Repeat after me, there’s no such thing as a global warming.”
I couldn’t decide if he was hiding the truth, or trying to avoid admitting that he didn’t know what a caret is. I thanked him for his time and left.
I normally don’t pay attention to conspiracy theories, especially from people who recycle their own body waste, but I must admit that Biodiesel Ed’s suggestion is seeming less and less far fetched.
Great power comes with the ability to tell people to insert punctuation anywhere proofreaders deem to place a caret. The question is, will they use that power wisely?