This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Thing Not To Feel Today: poor.

The Death of the Pauper - Alexandre Antigna
The Death of the Pauper by Alexandre Antigna.

'We weren't poor,' my mother used to say when speaking of her childhood, though the only loo her home possessed was a bucket in a shed in the garden.

'We were a bit better-off than most people,' my father explained, though his house had no electricity or water supply.

My parents both felt quite well-off because they had food to eat: starvation had been a real threat to their own parents.

So what is poor, exactly? Well, I can tell you. In Britain and the European Union poverty has a nice precise definition. Poverty is having an income equal to or less than sixty per cent of median* income, with an adjustment for family size.

It means that if you have a smaller private jet than everyone else in your country then you'll probably be classed as poor. 

On the other hand, if no one has any income at all, then poverty will have been conquered.

And what about me? Good heavens no, I'm not poor. Why, I have an internet connection!

And after all, who needs a smart phone and a driving licence, anyway?

Thing Not To Feel Today: poor. This word comes from the Latin pauper, which means poor.

*You work out a median by lining up every example in your sample (in this case, everyone's income) individually in order of size. The median figure is the middle one in the list.


  1. A while back, my six year old daughter asked me if we were poor.

    "No, we're not poor," I said, somewhat bemused.

    "Oh, so we're rich!" she responded.

    "Well ... no, we're not rich either."

    I could see the lack of dichotomy was most unsatisfying to her, so we had a little chat about what it means to be rich and poor and how, while we might not be considered rich in our own country, to many in the world we are unbelievably wealthy, enjoying such luxuries as eating different foods every day, having our own car, and having the shameful option of being wasteful with our necessities.

    It was an interesting discussion, and a reminder for us as a family that just having what are considered the basics in life sadly (and shamefully for us as a species) makes us relatively rich.

    1. If she's anything like my children were, almost the main necessity is a menagerie of soft toys and an infinity of story books.

  2. You are never poor while you have books, though I understand that £££ are very useful for stuff like food, electricity etc. I have neither a smart phone nor a driving licence but that's because I can't drive and haven't got round to getting a smart phone yet...Poor does mean different things, wherever you are!

    1. Perhaps it all comes down to you're never poor while you don't feel poor.