Do you have a clunky silver echidna? Or maybe some spare watermelons? Most people are familiar with slang names for coins like “bob” or “loonie,” but some of the currency slang from around the world is extremely colorful and imaginative.
In Australia, a “clunky silver echidna” refers to a five cent coin (which can also be “dusty shrapnel”), while a ten cent coin can be “Howie’s sticky dollar,” in reference to a politician known for introducing a goods and services tax. The two-dollar coin can be a “nugget,” a “twigger,” or–since it is approximately the same size as the five cent coin but thicker–a “fat echidna.”
In Canada, the one-dollar coin is commonly called a “loonie,” for its well-known design of a loon on the reverse. The two-dollar coin, naturally, became the “toonie,” though some prefer to spell it as “twonie.”
India has a denomination called the Lakh, which is equal to 100,000 rupees. The lakh is sometimes called the “peti,” which means “suitcase,” referring to the suitcase needed to carry a Lakh’s worth of notes. Wealthy businessmen may refer to two- and three-crore amounts as “2C” or “3C.”
The most common Russian slang words for money translate as “cabbage” and “dough.” 500 rubles are sometimes referred to as “pyatihatka,” which literally means “five huts,” perhaps a reference to the buying power of the currency. 1000 rubles can be “kosar” (mower) or “shtuka” (thing.) During the hyperinflation of the ruble during the Russian Civil War and 1980’s, some of the larger denominations acquired nicknames: 1 million rubles is “limon” (lemon) and a billion rubles were “arbuz” (watermelon.)
Pre-decimalisation coins in the United Kingdom have many names. A “bob” was a shilling, while a farthing could be a “mag,” and a sixpence a “tanner.” The collective term “shrapnel” could refer to all loose change in a pocket, while a “wad” would be a large amount of paper money.
Rap and hip-hop music have given rise to new slang terms for money, as well. “Bands” refers to large amounts of paper currency, from the rubber bands often used to keep bills in bundles. “Guac,” short for “guacamole,” is also used, presumably due to the green color of both the condiment and American bills. “Cream” is based on the acronym “cash rules everything around me,” most notably used by the Wu-Tang Clan.
One type of slang deserves special mention: the complex and lyrical phenomenon of “rhyming slang.” The best known example of this form is Cockney rhyming slang. In this system, the object is paired with a two-part phrase, the last part of which rhymes with the object. Sometimes the rhyme is left at this stage, but in many instances, the second part of the pairing is dropped, leaving an unrelated word to signify the object. For example, “stairs” could be paired with “apples and pears.” Then, “pears” would be dropped, leaving “apples.” (This is the system that lead to the phrase “blowing a raspberry;” the full rhyming phrase would be “raspberry tart.”) This manner of speaking can be extremely confusing to anyone not familiar with the system and its customs. In some instances, the original slang word is rhymed again, leading to even more distance from the original subject. This unique speech art began in the East End of London in the 1840s.
In Australia, this can be seen in the slang terms for the twenty cent coin, which is referred to as a “splatty” or “fatty,” rhyming with the “platy” (platypus) on the coin. The 10 cent coin, which features a design of a bird, is sometimes called a “turd” for the same reason.
Whatever you call your currency, one thing is for certain: we’ll never run out of weird slang to use in describing money!