Asked by a friend to suggest a translation of his job title, I came up against the Swedish word “fastighet”. Now I always thought that translating that into English would be a straightforward choice between the British term “property” and the American term “real estate”. Not so. Technically, the two terms “real estate” and “real property” are interchangeable, but the word “property” has a much wider meaning. Sure, real estate can be property but property can be anything of value, either tangible, such as land, or intangible, such as patents, copyrights, etc., known as “intellectual property” – damn sure the Americans don’t go round saying “intellectual real estate”. So real estate wins the day, then!
This also got me thinking of that king of all board-games, Monopoly, the game where you go round a board amassing as much real estate as you can. A friend of mine posted on Facebook not so long ago how pleased he was that his kids (around 8-10 years old) were playing the game and learning about the importance of owning property, er, sorry, real estate!
Hmm, interesting! So what he’s saying is that it’s good that we teach our children to play a game whose very name is indeed a crime! We have commissions and watchdogs whose task is to prevent monopolies!! Correct me if I’m wrong, but there are no other board-games named after other types of economic crime! There’s no Embezzlement Scrabble, or Tax Evasion Snakes and Ladders (now there’s a thought!), is there? Furthermore, in Monopoly, the worst thing that can happen to you is that you have to go to prison. And what happens to you, then? Absolutely nothing and if you pay 50 pounds, you can bribe your way out! There’s also a square called “Income Tax, pay 200 pounds”. Playing with my son a few years back, I remember him exclaiming, once he’d landed on the square: “Oh no, I have to pay my tax!”
OK, I’ll come clean. I nicked this last bit from a comedian I heard on Radio 4 the other day. His name is Nish Kumar – here’s a short audio clip of him laying into the free market economy, and Monopoly. Makes you think. Apologies for my phone going off in the middle of the recording!