Money makes the world go round

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You Don’t Say: Volume 61 – by Ray Hudson

Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson

I thought it may be time to investigate some of the weird words, meaning and origins of money, without which you have no chance of acquiring stuff to satisfy the prime rule of the game that he and/or she who has the most stuff when they die wins!

Since no one I’m aware of has found a way to take it with them, I think it’s a nefarious plot by the heirs of the world to cash in. I think we need to move that finish line back about ten years pre mortem (before you croak) so you can enjoy the spoils of the race without getting a heir in your soup.

Two things recently directed my easily-lead-astray attention span to consider a number of words and phrases about money. The first being a comment “a penny for your thoughts” which is generally taken to mean: you’re so quiet are you still alive? cat got your tongue? or are you thinking thoughts grander than the rest of us and will divulge them only for payment?

The origin appears to be 15th century, and means ‘I respect your thoughts and opinions to such a degree that I’m prepared to pay appropriately for them.’ Definitely in keeping with the value of current discourse with some US Presidential candidates and their self-appointed pundits. Particularly appropriate in Canada where we don’t even use pennies anymore!

The other comment that caught my attention was a good natured caution not to… take any wooden nickels! A nickel is a five cent coin made of …. nickel, and much harder than silver. In certain times of financial distress in the US some wooden coins and even larger script (notes) were printed. Ultimately most were of limited value and thus the warning that one should be careful lest they (be defrauded) into accepting wooden currency.

How did the dollar become the buck? Early settlers in North America actually traded deer skins among other animal pelts as money and the term stuck. So, for the big prize, what’s a sawbuck?

We know what a buck is, do you know what a sawhorse is? Of course you do don’t (scratch out the one that doesn’t apply). By nailing four pieces of wood into two “X” crosses, and placing a crossbeam between the two you create a sawhorse (I’m getting to it) upon which you can place logs for … sawing. Now, apply the Roman number or numeral for ten: X, thus a ten dollar bill was called a sawbuck.

Bits coins and pieces: American gangsters came up with the next few items: a “C- note” is a $100 bill – C is the Roman numeral for 100, and the G-note or Grand representing $1,000. G is not a Roman numeral, it is the abbreviation for Grand which means unusually large and special, particularly in the times when you could buy a house in Vancouver for $1000.

Two-bits means 25 cents and is actually attributed to two pieces of eight (Spanish coins) made famous by the Pirates of the Carribean and other movies. It’s actually a fraction of the Spanish dollar, called a real (pronounced rey-al) and is comprised of eight smaller denominations, called pieces of eight, which are small coins (like dimes are to dollars). Since early Americans frequently used Spanish currency, they adopted the 1/8th fraction for the American dollar, a decimal-based currency, so it was valued at 12.5 cents. Two of these make 25 cents or a quarter of a dollar. It’s pretty much out of use now, but I can remember as a child my grandfather referring to a half dollar as four bits. Interesting that now the word bits has been attached to coin to make a bitcoin (the digital – thus not real – currency) but now worth $588.11 Canadian. Checkout this headline from yesterday… Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid a $17,000 ransom in bitcoin to a hacker to undo their records and files he had encrypted and held for ransom.

You bet your bottom dollar that’ll come around again because people never change.

Hwyl fawr!