What do Travel Agencies, Accountants, and the French have in Common?

IMG_1198-1A Beaufort, NC sunset

Sometimes it’s pretty hard for folks outside of the accounting profession to see the value of accounting. Travel agents and others who are immersed in the business of travel or who spend much of their time traveling are particular challenges for we accountants.

Helping you see the value and importance of accounting is what I see as one of my most important jobs.

It’s a tough one, though.

To make it a little easier, I like to find interesting connections between the worlds of travel and accounting.

Sounds like a stretch, doesn’t it? Sometimes, but not always.

Take France for instance.

France is not exactly known for her accountants. Actually, I have never met a French accountant, they all might be top notch, but it’s easy to name things that France is well-known for.

Things like:

  • Wine
  • Cheese
  • Food
  • The Riviera
  • Being an extremely popular travel destination
  • The French Language

Wait a second…the French Language?

Yes, the French Language, there’s a connection.

Many French words have become part of the English language, some in a rather normal sense – one culture adopting the words of another through some sort of natural process, some in a less normal sense through one culture miss-using the words of another and incorporating the mistake into regular spoken language.

And there’s where you can make the connection.

Since I became a CPA, people have asked me about the job titles controller and comptroller.

Both are essentially the same job and tend to be the head accountant of an organization. Not the chief financial officer, but the employee who is responsible for the more tactical aspects of accounting.

For instance, the controller for Travel Leaders is a fellow named Parker Schlank.

He’s the Controller (as well as the VP of Finance) and not the Comptroller.

Many larger agencies likely have a controller (or a comptroller) position, though most smaller agencies will have someone who handles the duties but also fulfills other roles, too. In such small agencies, a CPA firm might provide similar services.

But, what about a comptroller?

It’s the same position.

Somewhere along the line we just started mispronouncing it or misspelling it, depending on your perspective.

It seems that back in the 15th or 16th centuries, the English adopted a version of a French word, compte, meaning to account, which was a variation of the Latin computare, meaning to calculate.

So not only are we traveling to France, but jumping over to Rome as well.

Somewhere along the way, we English speakers just butchered the word and started using both words to mean the same thing.

See the connection?

Sure you do. And, you just gained a little cocktail party small talk trivia.

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