Posted by jerry on April 15th, 2005 — Posted in Journal, Writing

… so over dinner we were discussing how to spend tomorrow together, and Sharon suggested she might like to spend her voucher at the bead shop. Interesting concept: a ‘voucher’. I wondered if it might be Norman French perhaps derived from the morphemes: vous and cher – you and dear (in both senses of ‘valued friend’ and ‘your expense’. I wondered if perhaps, like computer the word originally meant a person – in this case who vouchsafed for something, provided a third party guarantee – and indeed it seems I was not far wrong. It does derive from the Old French, including versions of voch, vouchier etc which meant to claim or to invoke – ultimately from the latin Vocare, to speak or to call (hence giving one’s word). But the term is first recorded around 1325 – somewhat after the Norman invasion of England, but perhaps it took a while for the word to be absorbed into the language and customs of the time.

According to the Oxford Dictionary the voucher was indeed a person, who did the vouching and the vouchee was the one vouched for. This seems to have predated the widespread use of a written guarantee.

By 1531 the word ‘voucher’ was being used in terms of a piece of paper that provided a guarantee as solid as the thing itself – in that case the reference was to the revovery of a voucher which would stand as good as if the land it represented were recovered in payment.

So tomorrow, Sharon will present her voucher which will stand in place of the money previously paid as guarantee that the payment was made before any goods were exchanged, and receive in equal value the beads that were virtually purchased before she even entered the store, enacting a tradition of trade that predates the widespread literacy of the modern era.


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