Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A dollar by any other name


A dollar by any other name

Ah, the ubiquitous dollar. We have many names for it. In this post we’ll cover a few of them.

In the 1550s the word dollar entered the English language. It referred to any number of coins of various values. Dollar comes from the German word thaler, an abbreviation of the word Joachimstaler, a word which referred to the coins minted in the town called Joachimstal, a village positioned in a valley, taler) & named for a chap called Joachim.

In 1836 Washington Irving first connected the two words almighty dollar, defining it as “that great object of universal devotion throughout our land.”

In 1855 some folks started calling dollars scads. Nobody’s certain about the source of the word scads, though some etymologists point toward a fish called the scad. Apparently the scaled, cold-blooded scads tend to travel in abundant schools. There is no singular form of the monetary scad, & by 1869 scads added the generalized meaning, large amounts. Connection? Nobody knows for sure.

In 1856 the word buck kicked in among American English speakers. Buck (meaning dollar) also has no verified source, though some have wondered whether bucks may have sprung from buckskins, which were used in some places as a unit of trade on the American frontier.

In 1862, Americans started calling dollars greenbacks. Before this, paper money was printed & issued by individual banks. The country’s paper money (initially known as demand notes) was printed in green ink, thus the name, greenbacks.

In 1895 the word simoleon came to mean dollar. Though nobody’s sure why simoleon came to mean dollar, & nobody has found a connection to Roman coin-names, there were Roman coins called simbella & simodius.

About 1936 the word single came to mean dollar. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how single came to mean dollar. Single has been a word in English since 1400 & came from the Old French word sengle, which meant alone, unaccompanied, unadorned.

In the 1940s, for no reason I can find, some Americans started calling dollars rutabagas.

Any thoughts about all these monetary monikers? Please say so in the comments section.

Big thanks to this week’s sources: Etymonline, Wordnik, Collins Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, & the OED.

7 comments:

  1. Rutabagas? Is the Wordmonger pulling our collective legs? Oh, my, I wonder if I could start using that just to freak people out. "Excuse me sir, but how many rutabagas does that car cost?"

    Simoleans has always been a mystery to me. It's on of those noir crime novel words Humphrey Bogart would say. Somehow I don't picture any of the characters Mr. Bogart played as Latin scholars, but you never know....

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    1. Hi Anne - I'm with you on the rutabagas & the simoleons. Just plain weird.

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    2. I'VE HEARD THAT BOGART'S FIRST WORDS ON SCREEN WERE, "TENNIS, ANYONE?" WHO'D'A THUNK IT?

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  2. Great post, Charlie. Interesting stuff. I love this: In 1836 Washington Irving first connected the two words almighty dollar, defining it as “that great object of universal devotion throughout our land.” Yep, for some folks it still is. :) Keep 'em coming. Hugs Paul (and Bob)

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  3. Hey Paul - thanks for the hugs & for the positive thoughts. Great to see (digitally) that you continue to wow the world with good writing. Keep it up!

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  4. So many names for something so common. I've never heard of rutabagas as a word for money, either. I think Anne should use it!

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    1. Perhaps we all should start using rutabagas in lieu of dollars. It would be a boon to the trucking industry when we all paid our taxes & sent tons of root vegetables to DC & Sacramento.

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