Greenbacks, Folding Green,
Lettuce and Cabbage
By Eric Shackle
"Always try to rub against money, for if you rub against
money long enough, some of it may rub off on you." -- from A Very
Honourable Guy, by Damon Runyon
Dough, moolah, rhino, spondulicks... there is more slang for
money than for anything else apart from maybe sex and drink -- and since you
might very well need money to obtain the other two, it should take pride of
place. To that end, we've come up with some interesting facts about money --
slang, a bit of history, and a little geography. If nothing else, it should make
for good cocktail party conversation one day.
Show me the money -- or the cabbage, bones, or Greenbacks
Jed Hartman, a writer in Mountain View, Calif., puts out the
amusing and wide-ranging weekly Web-based column, Words & Stuff, and has a
lot of money-based trivia on his The Roots of Money page.
According to Hartman, about 20 nations use the word dollar as
their unit of currency today. The word apparently derives from taler, or thaler
(a silver coin), which in turn comes from Joachimsthal, a place in Bohemia where
the taler was created.
He also points out the etymological relationship between cows
and money. The word pecuniary derives from peku, meaning both wealth and cattle
(from Latin pecus) since cows used to be a medium of exchange -- and still are
in many countries.
Seems the 1920s and 1930s were a very rich time for money slang,
some of which are still around today. Many, Hartman presumes, referred to the
buying of food: bacon, bread, and dough (sourdough was a term for counterfeit
money). Cabbage, lettuce, kale, folding green and long green all obviously refer
to the color of the American dollar.
Wait -- there's more: ace, bean, boffo (abbreviation of box
office, referring to money collected at theaters), bone, buck, bullet, case
note, clam, coconut, fish, frogskin, lizard, peso, rock, scrip, simoleon and
yellowback are all slang for our dollar.
The old Spanish peso coin could literally be broken into eight
pieces, each worth one real, or an eighth of a peso. The coins were called
"pieces of eight" which later translated to a quarter dollar being
equal to two bits: "Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar, come on (your
home team here) get up and holler."
Dollar coins have come and gone ... and come again
U.S. silver dollars have been minted and issued at various times
since 1794. Discontinued in 1935, they resumed with the introduction of the
silverless Eisenhower dollar in 1971. The silverless Susan B. Anthony dollar
replaced the Eisenhower coin in 1979 and just this year the gold-colored
Sacajawea dollar was issued. Silver certificates, authorized in 1878 and issued
in exchange for silver dollars, accounted for nearly all of the $1 notes in
circulation up until November 1963, when the first $1 Federal Reserve notes were
Dead presidents and friends -- who's pictured on our money?
Penny: Abraham Lincoln
$1 bill: George Washington
Nickel: Thomas Jefferson
$2 bill: Thomas Jefferson
Dime: Franklin D. Roosevelt
$5 bill: Abraham Lincoln
Quarter: George Washington
$10 bill: Alexander Hamilton
50 cents: John F. Kennedy
$20 bill: Andrew Jackson
$1 coin: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Susan B.
Anthony and Sacajawea
$50 bill: Ulysses S. Grant
$100 bill: Benjamin Franklin
($500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 denominations have not been
printed since 1946.)
In 1864, after receiving numerous appeals from citizens urging
that God be recognized on U.S. coins, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase
authorized the use of "In God We Trust" on the two-cent coin. In 1955,
after even more appeals, Congress mandated the use of this phrase on all
currency and coins. They now all carry the phrase.
Right on the money
There are several towns and villages in the United States named
for money. The Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names lists the following places
that sport monetary monikers: Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee all have a
Greenback; Alabama, Oregon and Tennessee have a Dollar; North Carolina,
Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia all have a Buck; Alabama, Illinois,
Michigan and Pennsylvania have Bucks; Alabama and Pennsylvania have a Dime each;
and Louisiana and Texas each have a Nickel. In Clackmannanshire, Scotland's
smallest county, there's a village named Dollar -- near Dollarbank, Dollarbeg
and the Burn of Sorrow. If you live in any of these places, you're really in the
ERIC SHACKLE is a retired journalist who spends much of his
spare time surfing the Internet and writing about it. His articles have been
published by leading newspapers including the New York Times, the Toronto Globe
and Mail, the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, and the Straits Times in
Originally Posted at GreenMagazine.com