Sunday, 26 December 2010

Strictly Cash Terms

Recently I came across a word I had (thankfully) never heard before. However it was clear from the adverisement that wonga meant cash, coin of the realm, currency, money. Momentarily baffled as to why such a grotesque noise should ever be considered worthy of use, it did get me thinking of other slang terms for money, some of which I will admit to having used myself, albeit sparingly, I also found many more than I had never encountered.

ackers - used in the United Kingdom it is one of several which was brought back to the homeland from colonial days. It is derived from the Egyptian akka, itself having many uses as a personal name, even a tribal one, yet seems to have its earliest reference as the triangular object on the Great Pyramid of the pharaoh Khuffu or Khuvu.

bob - some will still recall pre-decimal currency in the United Kingdom when pounds were divided into twenty shillings. Most often the shilling was known as a 'bob', which is first recorded in the early nineteenth century, while the origin is obscure.

brass - is one of the most obvious origins, it simply refers to the colour of the coinage.

buck - is in use for the American dollar by 1856. The origin is uncertain but thought to have originated as an abbreviation of 'buckskin', the basic unit of trade between Native Americans and European settlers in the early frontier days.

coppers - as with other names, this is a simple reference to the colour of some of the coins.

deaner - is another term for a shilling, not one I had ever heard before, but is certainly a mis-spelling of 'dinar', from Greek denarius, and seen as currency across North Africa, parts of the Middle East and as far north as Yugoslavia.

dibs - is used for small amounts of money. It is short for dibstones, the pebbles or counters used in the game played with knucklebones.

dough - may be a slang term today, however in the Middle English term dogh, from Germanic dag, did indeed mean 'money'.

folding stuff - one of the less imaginative terms, clearly this only refers to paper money.

fin - is applied to the £5 but the origin is obscure, suggestions of an abbreviation for 'finance' seem contrived.

gelt - is a Yiddish word, from Old High German gelt meaning 'recompense, reward'.

greenback - obviously the colour of the dollar bill.

joey - referred to the old silver threepence, the etymology is unknown but is referred to as such in George Orwell's Keep the Aspidistras Flying.

monkey - is a term for £500, it is held to be derived from the image of the monkey on the Indian 500 rupee note and brought back the Britain by soldiers who had served there.

nicker - a reference to a pound sterling, although the origin is unkown.

pony - as with the term 'monkey' a term brought back from India, this image on the 25 rupee note and describing £25.

quid - is the most commonly used term for a pound (also once used for a guinea). Almost certainly from Latin quid simply 'something'. First known usage is in 1688 when Shadwell writes "Let me equip thee with a quid" showing it must have been in popular use even then.

sou - is from the Old French sou a former French coin of minimal value.

tanner - is another name derived from the days of the British influence in India. At the time a rupee was roughly equal to a shilling, the rupee comprised sixteen annas and thus half a rupee was eight anna. Easy to see how half a shilling could also be seen as 'eight anna' or 'a tanner'.

It is claimed there are only two other subjects which have more slang terms than money - drink I may look at some time in the future (alcoholic, of course), but euphemisms for sex and the various acts is not for blogging.
(I should be able to get at least one book out of it!)

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