comScore Zero Stroke | The Mary Sue

Hard Economic Times? At Least You Don’t Have “Zero Stroke.”


A frequent touchstone in the daily news narrative is the poor state of the American/global economy. It’s true that in the past three years we have seen stalwart institutions go belly-up and have had fundmental economic faiths dashed like so many castles of sand, but let’s keep things in perspective: at least we’re not in Weimar Germany. After the First World War where the economy was so bad it spawned “hyper inflation,” where the money changed in value fast and steeply. In the space of a year, the amount of paper money equivalent to gold went from 100 to 1 all the way to 1,000, 000, 000, 000 to 1. This lead to a curious malady called “Zero Stroke,” where people had an uncontrollable desire to write endless strings of zeroes.

From a Time magazine article of the period, via Wikipedia:

With the price of bread running into billions a loaf the German people have had to get used to counting in thousands of billions. This, according to some German physicians, brought on a new nervous disease known as “zero stroke,” or “cipher stroke,” which may, however, be classed with neuritis as cipheritis. The persons afflicted with the malady are perfectly normal, except “for a desire to write endless rows of ciphers and engage in computations more involved than the most difficult problems in logarithms.”

I for one am grateful that though we’ve endured three years of sad faces on the trading floor, we haven’t seen people stricken, writing zero after zero as if trying to discern where all their labor has gone.

(image and story via Wikipedia)

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