Every once and a while a word appears in my reading material that sticks with me although exactly what it means escapes translation. Fungible is one of those words. My spell checker O.K.’d it without my asking and then I looked it up. It seems that in the late 18th century in the business world goods had an exchange value or replacement value with other goods and that was called fungible assets. This was quite different from “paper” that represented I.O.U’s or checks that could be redeemed for real cash money. That was fungible, too, but not quite in the same way. I am expecting my friend Pete to correct me on this.
I like the idea of fungibility (which is in the dictionary but not in my spell checker). I like the idea of exchanging work for food or work for some goods someone else will trade you for. The emphasis here is on TRADE. We don’t think of – hey in the future I will do something for you if you baby sit for me today. In the Popeye cartoon there is the character Wimpy who asks everyone if they were willing to give him a hamburger now until next Tuesday. Wimpy was always short and begging for a handout although he looked very unlike the down and out street person he represented in that commentary on life in an offbeat society.
We trade a great deal of money back and forth among the nations of the world and the businesses that grease their wheels. The prices today are unreal to someone like me, just an ordinary person. I once thought that the few millions Thomas Jefferson spent on acquiring the Mississippi Purchase was an awful lot of money. It just so happened to extend our nation to the Pacific Ocean. There is talk daily about small companies having the fungibility, or ability to be valued, in the billions. It is somewhat like the computer where mega and kiga were replaced by giga some time ago and there are these tiny machines that have even greater power.
Another meaning found in my dictionary is “to perform the office or function” of a deal that actually means what I previously said about my babysitting for you now if you help me get those boards from the lumber yard next week. There are people who understand this so that they always seem to get the better of any deal. I remember a guy who walked around trying to get people to help him with a project on the premise we all live in the same new development (opened up by the Garden State Parkway) where all the houses looked alike except the middle level was on the left in some and on the right in others. Some of us went along for we were young and liked the idea of a supply of baby sitters. Help me lift this up and I will help you when you need it. In these days fungibility is much more complicated.