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How Americans Talk About Money

The most obvious slang words for money in the US refer to famous men. This is because, up until today, it is only men who have appeared on the front of American bills. So, for example, if you ask someone for a ‘Jackson,’ they will hand you a 20-dollar bill because the 7th president Andrew Jackson appears on the front.

Bank notes in general are also called ‘dead presidents’, even though this is a slight misnomer, since although both Alexander Hamilton — on the 10-dollar bill — and Benjamin Franklin — on the 100-dollar bill — were two of the seven Founding Fathers of the Unites States, but were never actually presidents.

The 1$ bill is also called a ‘buck’, the common term for a dollar in the States. Historians believe that it is an abbreviation of the word ‘buckskins', as the skin of the male deer was used a unit of trade among Indians and Europeans back in the 18th century.

The 2$ note is called a ‘deuce’, while the 5$ one is known as a ‘fiver’. The 100-dollar bill is often referred to as a ‘C-note’, apparently because C is the Roman numeral for a hundred.

Even though there isn’t currently a 1.000-dollar bill in circulation, this amount of money is what an American would call a ‘grand’, or simply a ‘G’, but also a ‘K’ as in ‘kilo’.

Another slang word one would sadly probably not use very often is a ‘rock’ meaning a million dollars. At most, you may hear it in a gangster film!

Learn more fascinating facts about the history of the dollar in this month’s Speak Up.