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Sum and substance

The top becomes the bottom. "Sum" means the total of an addition, and has spawned figurative meanings: we "sum up" or "summarize" anything, we extract the "sum and substance" of a complex topic. "Sum" derives from L. summa, meaning the topmost line, reflecting the Roman practice of adding a column of numbers up and casting the result in the top line. (We still "add up," for some reason.) Our practice is to add down and cast the result in a line below the column of figures which gives us "the bottom line." Hence the top has become the bottom.

"Substance," incidentally, is from sub-, under and stare, to stand. Sub-, in turn is from IE *upo, which meant under but also gave rise to "up from under" meanings, including "up" itself. So down has become up. And when we grasp the "sum and substance" of something, we know it "from top to bottom."

"Top" is from a Gc root, with no visible IE antecedent, but some(1) think that "bottom" derives from IE *bhudh-, which also gives us "fundamental" and "profound" via L. fundus.

1. Claiborne. Not in AHD.