Brainfood: Words-Worth - Package

Everyone knows that when you see a job offering '50k + attractive package', the package doesn't come wrapped in shiny paper with a bow.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It's an enticing way of talking about non-cash remuneration, slightly more exciting than mentioning the staff canteen and the loan of the company bicycle. To some, a package has more status than mere money, implying elevation to a rarified world of bonuses, share-options, cars, pensions, private health, golden hellos, golden handcuffs and golden parachutes. The word 'package', however, has humble origins. It began with the 12th-century Flemish word pac, imported as part of the wool trade, and meaning a collection of goods wrapped in a cloth. But the modern figurative use of 'package' is American, starting with 'package tickets' on the 19th-century railroads, and leading to all sorts of 'packages' of services, ideas, policies and benefits. Boasting about your package, though, is ill-advised. These days the word is more innuendo-laden than Mrs Slocombe's pussy.

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