Q. Why do so many companies pay employees biweekly instead of weekly?
-- Harold Griffin, of Belleville
A. That's simple. Filling your wallet less often can fatten a company's bottom line.
How? Let me give you a simple example. Let's say you hire a neighbor boy to cut your lawn. Which will cost you less: having him mow every week or once every two weeks? Obviously, the less frequently you have your lawn cut, the less green you're going to shell out.
You may not have thought about it, but the same holds true for doing payrolls. While researching this answer online, I ran across one company exec who said he probably would have to double his accounting staff if he paid his employees biweekly instead of monthly.
More employees, more cost to the company. Q.E.D. Here are a few of the reasons:
You might be thinking, "What's so hard about payroll? Just multiply 40 times your hourly salary and print the check." But don't forget about all those tax deductions -- not to mention stock plans, IRAs, commissions, bonuses, overtime, wage garnishments, etc., etc. Doing all of this biweekly can be a big time- and, hence, cost-saver.
Many companies hire an outside firm to do their payrolls. But while a payroll service provider may charge only a flat amount for processing, they may tack on a fee for each check cut or direct deposit made. (With all their special security features, checks are expensive all by themselves.) Again, going biweekly cuts this latter number in half.
You're not done once you've issued the checks, either. Uncle Sam demands meticulous record-keeping, so you may have to print and file hard copies of payroll records so you can prove no hanky-panky occurred. Biweekly pay reduces paper waste and the need for storage space.
In addition, a company's beancounters have to go through checks and balance the books against checks outstanding. Biweekly pay can reduce the workload yet again.
As a result, biweekly pay seems to have become a happy medium between weekly and monthly pay, which may be acceptable for more lucrative jobs.
In fact, some say it may benefit employees, too -- especially those who manage their money well. Even though you're paid less often, you're given twice as much. This allows you to pay off more bills at once and perhaps stash away a bit of what's left rather than fork over everything each week to stay above water.
Q. We all make fun of Dagwood Bumstead's unruly hair in the comic strip, but why do we call those particularly unmanageable tufts of hair "cowlicks"?
-- Robert Grey, of Marissa
A. Pardon the pun, but the definitive answer to that question likely will remain an udder mystery lost in time.
It's not hard to understand the connection. Those maddening areas that just won't obey your comb appear to have been licked over and over against the grain by some animal until they won't stay put.
But why a cow? Honestly, I have a cat that sits atop my sofa and frequently grooms my head while I watch TV. Afterward, parts of my scalp are pretty well tousled but I don't call them catlicks.
For perhaps the most logical answer, you have to look deep into Norse mythology of all places. According to a legend recorded by poet-historian Snorri Sturluson about 1200, Audumbla was the divine primeval cow who licked the world into existence from salty ice blocks. And just look what she licked first, according to Arthur Brodeur's translation:
"The first day that she licked the blocks, there came forth from the blocks in the evening a man's hair; the second day, a man's head; the third day the whole man was there. He is named Buri."
It is suggested that this story either influenced or reflected tales from elsewhere throughout Europe and, hence, led to the term "cowlick" as we know it today. By 1584, Italian writer G.P. Lomazzo described a figure in a painting, "The lockes or plaine feakes of haire called cow-lickes, are made turning upward." By 1828, Noah Webster defined it as "a tuft of hair that appears as if licked by a cow."
Some argue that because of a cow's odd dentition, it leaves an uneven pattern in the grass when it eats, giving rise to cowlick to describe messy human hair. But many experts seem to find the Norse tale far more mooving.
Which six states were named for European kings and queens?
Answer to Wednesday's trivia: Before Gen. Robert E. Lee bought him and named him Traveller, Lee's horse originally had a most appropriate name: Jeff Davis, an American Saddlebred born in 1857. The horse survived the Civil War, but shortly after Lee's death in 1870, he stepped on a nail and developed tetanus, forcing him to be euthanized. He is now buried close to Lee at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. Meanwhile, his memory lives on in Traveler VII, the current mascot at the University of Southern California.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org