Scratch makes the world go round, as they say–not that anyone is sure why we call our capital “scratch.” We certainly have a love-hate relationship with the contents of our banks, and we’ve made up dozens nicknames up for the almighty dollar. Here are just a few of the nicknames our money has seen over time.
CLAMS. Of all of the dollar’s nicknames, the origins of the name “clams” can be somewhat difficult to trace. One possible theory is that clamshells were once used as currency in certain area of the United States. Native Americans from the California region were said to have used clams as a means of bartering.
DOUGH or BREAD. Basic necessities such as food translate well as nicknames for the symbolic papers and coins resting in our banks. The most popular theory for this sobriquet stems from our historical dependence on bread as a source of valuable nutrition. People needed food-bread often being the easiest type of food to acquire-and money was what bought it. Money and bread, then, were lumped together as two of life’s necessities, and the word “dough” used for money entered our printed vocabulary sometime in the 19th century. But slang is always evolving, and recent nicknames have cropped up around these terms: nowadays, someone who makes the most in a household might be considered the “breadwinner.”
LOOT. Labels for money can have either positive or negative connotations, and this term certainly started out with a negative one. Historically, warring nations and groups would loot villages and lands after conquering them, stealing whatever valuables they could find from their unfortunate victims. Today, the term has lost most of its negative connotations of plunder from ransacked cities, and we sometimes refer to windfalls and monetary gain as “loot.” Other unfortunate connections between money and traumatic events? Slang terms such as “blood money” or “dead presidents.” Intentions have not always been on the up and up when it comes to the great green.
C-NOTES. Most of us are probably less familiar with this nickname, except perhaps for those who work in banks. Depending on how often you come across a 100-dollar bill in your day to day life, you may have heard the term “c-note,” which is slang for this large banknote. This derives from the Latin for 100, C from the Latin word “centum.” Another popular theory is that the phrase “c-note” means “century note.” Either way, readers are probably more familiar with another nickname with more obvious origins: the Benjamin.
It seems logical that we should create so many labels for our currency, which is often at the forefront of our minds, but this is only a short sample of the nicknames: listen to popular music or sit near a table of teens at lunch, and you may hear even newer, cooler synonyms for your greenbacks.