When thinking about white-collar crime, the first perpetrators that might come to mind are Wall Street, corporations and high-profile snakes like Bernie Madoff. Yet in They Cooked the Books, author Patrick M. Edwards has taken an entirely different approach.
They Cooked the Books is written in fifteen parts, with each section casting a metaphorical and honest light on the origins, original meanings and present day usage of sayings related to financial doings (legal and otherwise). Turns out financial folly and deception is not something that the 20th or 21st century can take sole credit for when considering phrases such as, “A wolf in sheep’s clothing”, in which the Bible quotes Jesus as making reference to “…false prophets…in sheep’s clothing.”
Many casual sayings that Edwards provides background on are in constant use today. If a person is gullible and easily believes what is told to them, the pat response is usually “If you believe that, than I have a bridge to sell you”, which is precisely where the term “They could sell you the Brooklyn Bridge” comes from, originating in America in the first half of the 20th century.
The term “Poor as a church mouse” dates back to the 1600’s, and simply meant that if a mouse were to get trapped in a church, it would surely starve to death. When prisoners were beaten and tortured in South Africa, it was Nelson Mandela who said that he would take his abuser to the highest court in the land.
“By the time I am finished with you, you will be as poor as a church mouse.” The guard left him alone, proving that there has always been power behind many of the idioms that Edwards’ references.
Edwards has done a thorough job at unmasking the meaning of many phrases that Americans and others freely use today. “That’s water under the bridge”, which dates back to the late 18th century, refers to “That’s the way it goes,” and “Don’t cry over spilt milk”, a term attributed to Sophocles, the Greek playwright, meaning, “Why bewail what is done and cannot be recalled?”
The birth of “Living high on the hog”, “Money talks”, ‘The love of money is the root of all evil” and other often used sayings, is enlightening and jaw dropping funny. Edwards is without a doubt pugnacious in his research.
They Cooked the Books is an insightful and entertaining education into the seeds of corruption and its everlasting sad, but accurate legacy.
Reviewed b y Ivy Pittman for IndieReader