Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How Much Is a Fortune?

Driving with the shorter of the short people the other day and he asks, "How much is a fortune?" I explained that some terms are vague, they don't have definite meanings, that there is not a particular amount of money that makes up a fortune.

But the more I've been thinking about it, there is some sense to the term. It doesn't just mean a lot. We use it that way metaphorically. "I bet that cost a fortune," means that you spent a lot more than one normally spends on something like that, but it doesn't literally mean that you spent a fortune.

It does have the connotation of something that could be inherited -- "he spent his family fortune on the project." And so we get the sense of more money than a single person usually has or generally needs.

Is it, perhaps, a sum that would be sufficient to live off of without having to work? That might make sense of the phrase "small fortune" which is diminutive in that it is a lot of money, but not enough to make one financially self-sufficient.

How much is a fortune?