Answer Man: Why is the credit union on West Main closed?

News-DemocratNovember 19, 2013 

Why is the Catholic and Community Credit Union closed on West Main in Belleville? All their recording says is that it's closed indefinitely. Many of us out here are wondering.

-- T.S., of Belleville

Don't worry, the financial sky hasn't fallen in on your favorite credit union. But the building's ceiling has.

"We don't know what caused it," said Vicki Westerfield, the credit union's marketing spokeswoman. "The ceiling came in. It just started falling down."

Fortunately, it happened before they opened for business, and nobody was injured. But the branch at 6100 W. Main St. has been closed since Saturday.

"The employees were in there and they looked up and all of a sudden it was starting to sag," Westerfield said. "So they started moving and it just came in. Not the whole ceiling but in places. There's cracks."

Now the cause is under investigation as the credit union tries to get the word out about the closure.

"I mean drywall does not just come down on its own. So it has to be checked out before anything can be done. We don't know how long it's going to take."

Westerfield assures customers that while the ceiling is showing a bit of physical weakness, the union is financially strong. In the interim, Belleville customers can use the Shiloh or Carlyle Avenue locations -- or any of the 5,000 other credit unions nationwide in the Co-Op Shared Branch network (

"We're not disappearing."

Your recent answer about "bling" reminded me of another word I've wondered about -- "swag," which seems to mean anything from stolen goods to describing showy displays of money or possessions. How did that start? -- John Fehrmann

While the word may sound fresh and trendy, it actually has swaggered down a torturous path of at least 700 years of language history to get here.

In fact, that's how most etymologists seem to think the word started. When ancient Swedes or Finns stumbled out of their neighborhood pub after drinking too much mead, some irate Scandinavian hausfrau probably coined the term "svagga" -- meaning "to move unsteadily from side to side" -- while reading her drunken husband the riot act.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the Brits then picked up on this word by 1303 and turned it into "swag" and later, perhaps, "sway." But they didn't stop there. Eventually, the thought of some inebriated soul staggering bent over down the road may have sparked the idea of fabric or other items that are fastened at the ends but sag in the middle. Hence, some decorative curtains, for example, are still called swags.

Similarly, a thief often enters a home with a sack in which to stuff the plunder. By the time the sack is filled, it, too, is hanging heavy and swaying as the thief makes a getaway. As a result, swag also became associated by the 1800s with anything from a burglar's haul to a pirate's booty.

So it wasn't much of a stretch to extend the definition to any ostentatious display of goods or money. In "The Penny Showman" from about 1920, for example, author Tom Norman, a traveling British fairground carny, wrote about a stall that was "set out with the usual showman's swag, such as fancy cups and saucers, gaudy vases, shaving mugs, etc."

Later, the term came to describe promotional giveaway items on radio stations and now seems to encompass anyone who shows off a wad of bills or flashes a gaudy array of jewelry. It also may explain the evolution of "swagger" from an unsteady lurching to a boastful, arrogant strutting.

And the evolution continues. E-mails now pop up periodically suggesting that "swag" was coined in the early '60s by Hollywood homosexuals who used it as an acronym as code for "Secretly We Are Gay."

This, of course, is ridiculous -- as is "Sold Without A Guarantee," "Scientific Wild-Arsed Guess" and a host of others. And that's the swag on swag.

Today's trivia

What is Nevada State Route 375 more popularly known as?

Answer to Tuesday's trivia: At 530 feet from the ground to the top of its spire, the Minster in Ulm, Germany, is usually regarded as the tallest church in the world -- although it took more than 500 years to achieve that mark. Originally Roman Catholic, the church was begun in 1377, but for a variety of reasons construction stopped in 1543 when the steeple was only 330 feet high. By that time, the people in Ulm had converted to Protestantism, and the Minster became a Lutheran church. Finally, in 1817, work resumed, and on May 31, 1890, the church was finished -- 14 feet taller than the Cologne Cathedral. At 392 feet, Riverside Church in New York City, which opened Oct. 5, 1930, is the tallest in the U.S.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or or call 618-239-2465.

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