This is a guest post from Alban, a personal finance writer.
Mainly deriving from cockney English and African American idioms, slang has become an increasing popular way for groups to create exclusivity and style by creating their own languages. I found that the best way to sound cool, when I was researching words for money and merging them with ways to say “I don’t have any”, was to use the names of world currencies and words that were never intended to have that meaning. Here’s 15 cool ways to let everybody know that if you wanted to put your “2 cents in”, you couldn’t:
1. Runnin’ On Empty
Have you ever wondered how long you could drive on empty before your car physically stopped moving? This is one of the most scary and exhilarating things to try. We all know that when the gauge says empty there is still a reserve that will allow us to get to a station to fill up (thought to be enough to drive 40km or 25 miles) so to say you are “runnin’ on empty” means you haven’t got much to spare.
2. Scrounging For Shrapnel
Somehow coins magically always end up falling out of our pockets when we sit on the couch. Coins are compared to shrapnel which were metal fragments that were put in bullet shells to make projectiles and create a more damaging impact. I can remember an instance when I was a few cents short when I heard the ice cream man coming and thinking he’d be gone before I got some money and permission from my parents; so where did I go to get those last few cents for my icecream? You guessed it, found a nice shiny dollar and got TWO!
3. Looking For Loot
I don’t know whose idea it was first, but it was very smart of Banks to put the money in those bags with the dollar signs on them when they were getting robbed, that way the police would know who to chase.
4. Chasing Chips
Often done by those who can’t afford to, gambling has long been thought of as a way to make lots of money, fast. Portrayed all over the world from card games in classic “Western” movies to tiles in dingy basements in the Asian underworld, with so many ways to gamble, the thrill associated with not knowing the outcome and the chance to win money, it provides the perfect combination that can attract anyone.
5. Diggin’ For Dinero
The Spanish word for money, Dinero became apart of the American slang vernacular when Robert De Niro became the acclaimed actor he is today.
6. Ploughing For Pennies
When it was time for the seasonal harvest, this was when all the hard work paid off. The harvest marked the end of the growing season and was cause for much celebration in many religions and tribes. Much money was to be made from producing crops, but farmers always took risks with bad weather conditions and bad harvest timing, which would certainly result in a poor yield and quantity.
7. On A Quest For Quid
The English are well known for their rhyming cockney slang and have well over 100 words that describe money. Some are based on their political past (like a “Maggie”, named after Margaret Thatcher) and some are even based on famous crimes that took place. One example is what we know as a Grand ($1,000) is known a “bag of sand”.
8. In Pursuit Of Pesos
The Peso (literally meaning “weight”) was the first currency to use the dollar sign ($), which the US later adopted and up until the 12th century was the most traded currency in the world. The US used the Peso as their currency up until 1792 and it set the benchmark of comparison for most Asian currencies during that time.
9. Rummaging For Rubles
During WWI, food shortages and rising prices became very serious problems in Russia. Together with inflation these shortages were especially a problem in the capital, St Petersburg, where poor transportation networks made reaching suppliers particularly difficult. Shops closed early due to a lack of bread, sugar, meat and other provisions, and lines lengthened massively for what remained. Not surprisingly, strikes increased steadily from the middle of 1915, and so did crime; working-class women in St Petersburg reportedly spent about forty hours a week begging in food lines while some turned to prostitution or crime.
10. Trawling For Treasure
With the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and because they feature Johnny Depp, acting like a pirate has now become even cooler. Legend has it that Pirates would bury what their stolen fortunes in large chests and create maps so they could find them again later. These maps were usually misleading in case they fell into the wrong hands.
And the last 5 ways you can sound cool is by making comparisons…
11. I’ve got less Dough than a Pizza Hut
A variation of the slang word for money “bread” (words for money were often coined for the value of what it could buy), it is only natural you would compare your financial situation with what Pizza Hut use to make their pizza (isn’t it?)
12. I’ve got less Tenners than an opera
Making a Pun on the word “tenors”, a Tenner is an English slang word for a £10 note. An Opera usually has four male voices, with the tenor being the highest and most difficult to perfect.
13. I’ve got less Green than a golf course
The aim of golf is to get the ball to the green in the least amount of shots possible. The green is the most manicured part of the course, with tremendous efforts taken to mow and cut its grasses to precise lengths. Directly related as well to the color of money in Northern American, the “Greenback” is a common name used in the Foreign Exchange market.
14. I’ve got less Jack than a deck of playing cards
Originating from the prostitute murderer “Jack the Ripper”, to say I haven’t got “Jack” became part of the English vernacular because Jack’s existence was thought to be a hoax. Solidified by the fact that the murders were never solved and Jack never caught, saying you had “Jack” meant you had nothing.
15. I haven’t got quite enough Dosh to be Posh
The word “dosh” is now used to mean a reasonable amount of spending money but is said to have originated from Elizabethan England as a shortening of the words “doss-house”. A doss-house was a very cheap hostel or room where one would sleep on a bundle (French word ‘dossier’) of straw. It is not uncommon to hear that the word Posh originated from England and stands for Port Out, Starboard Home, referring to the wealthy that we able to travel by ship and requested the first class cabins that were shaded from the sun on outbound voyages east and homeward voyages west. Apparently this is not true.
With the amount of words we have to describe money, there is an endless array of phrases, metaphors and analogies to describe your financial worth. As I’ve discovered, the secret to sounding cool, in this instance, is to mix an historical link with a humorous play on words. And remember, you read it on the Internet, so it must be true.