5 more interesting accounting facts


Here are a few little tidbits to spice up the conversation when someone asks what you do for a living

Accountants tend to get a bad rap when being stereotyped into the boring box, but the truth is, “bean counters” come from all walks of life with a range of personalities and are able to work in virtually any industry and the profession is a stable one with good prospects. Here are a few little tidbits to spice up the conversation when someone asks what you do for a living.

The father of accounting

Known as the father of modern accounting, Italian mathematician Luca Pacioli published the first book about double-entry bookkeeping on 10 November 1494. His book, Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita, described keeping accounts for assets, liabilities, capital, income, and expenses. He famously said that a person should not go to sleep at night until their debits and credits are equal. International Accountants Day (10 November) – yes, really – was established in his honour.

Bubblegum bookkeeper

American accountant Walter Diemer was by all accountants pretty handy with the books when working for the Fleer Chewing Gum Corporation in the 1920s, but his real claim to fame was that he invented bubble gum in 1928, working on the formula in his spare time. Think about that the next time you think of giving up your downtime passion, even if it is Candy Crush.

Accountants to the stars
Certified Public Accountants spend an average of 1 700 hours hand-counting the Academy Award ballots prior to the night of the Oscars ceremony and have been doing so since 1935. Members of the Academy’s accounting firm partners traditionally make an appearance during the broadcast and it is considered a honour to be selected. They’ve still got to bring their A-game, however – in 2017, confusion over the Best Picture award was put down to an error by PwC staffers and new protocols have since been established.

The first recorded name in history

In his bestseller, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Dr Yuval Noah Harari reveals that the first ever recorded name belonged to an accountant. He says that as people started settling down into larger kingdoms, recording mathematical data, including taxes, income and possession, became vital and so bookkeepers, accountants and administrators took on a prominent role.

The first written text in history, dating back some 5 000 years ago, is believed to belong to an accountant who was making records of supplies: “A total of 29 086 measures of barley were received over the course of 37 months. Signed, Kushim.”

Not just about the numbers
“Bookkeeping” (and associated words) is the only English word, bar hyphenated ones and proper nouns, to contain three sets of double letters back-to-back-to-back. If we allow for place names, Woolloomooloo in Australia would have been a contender. So accounting isn’t just about ledgers and journals – it has a hallowed place in the English dictionary too.


Related articles

Three CFOs’ guide to managing boardroom expectations

Productivity SA CFO Okuhle Sidumane, Sappi Southern Africa CFO Pramy Moodley and BMI Coverland FD Tammy Narain explain how effective expectation management helps them ensure every engagement with their board is a success.