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"As sound as a dollar": Money Idioms; Past, Present and Future

Money Idioms; Past, Present and Future by Richard M. Kiernicki


Feature Article for MONEY Magazine, October 2013 Issue

This is going to be so much fun; writing about financial idioms and I already have a huge list to select from. Most of them seem to have originated in North America and have been heard time and time again. So I am inviting you, my global reader, to share with us money idioms that we may not be as familiar with; that have made some kind of an impression on you in your country of origin. Furthermore how does the idiom, if at all, relate to life in your new homeland? Otherwise I will be forced to bore you with a myriad of financial idioms that we have all heard countless numbers of times before.


I realize that the meaning of the idiom may change once translated into the English language, however, I am not overly concerned as all things change over time, including the meaning of the words we use. This idiom sent in to me from J.S. is a perfect example. She writes “now this one is originally said in Arabic and like you wrote, when words are translated the sentence loses its meaning. This one is said to one who is very talented and knowledgeable of how to make good money and it says; ‘he knows where to eat the shoulder from’”. Thank you J.S. Well… that idiom is quite interesting and nothing like any of the idioms that I have heard before, and yet there is a slight sense of familiarity when I think about it for a moment. It almost reminds me of the hunter who knows where to get the best meat from his kill, a lesson to be learned and remembered.


This is partially why writing on this topic is going to be fun. With the new age electronic chat that is rampant amongst the younger people of the globe, the 15 to 30 year olds who text more than they talk on their phones, with their “new” language, their understanding and application of the “newspeak” language, keep these commonly accepted tidbits of knowledge as valid today and tomorrow or will they go the way of the land line? How will that “newspeak” affect the meaning of the earliest of idioms that many of us are familiar with such as the ever popular “for whatever one sews, that will he also reap”. Or has todays meaning of that biblical text already eroded away from the original meaning? Will this idiom and its meaning today continue to provide future generation’s a better understanding and application of it’s message or will it get lost in translation to an entire generation hooked on Twitter? Does it even matter?


As I read through my “list” I came across an idiom that immediately caught my attention and I am sure that many would agree, this is one idiom that needs to be addressed right now; the “as sound as a dollar” idiom. I would think that that idiom was introduced some time ago when a dollar of the United States of America really meant something. Based upon the current state of the US green-back from an international perspective, I do not think the “as sound as a dollar” idiom refers to the once almighty American dollar anymore.


The fear of financial collapse in the US has many questioning the value of the currency and combined with the fact the government of the United States was closed for business while they struggled with increasing the debt ceiling to another astronomical level breeds all kinds of uncertainty and speculation regarding the financial strength of the once mighty US of A. As far as the American dollar goes, this idiom has had it’s day and will not be relevant to future generations for quite some time.


In future editions of this column the questions that I want to explore about idioms include; has the meaning of these idioms changed over time? Does it still make sense, or has it become redundant? Is the meaning more important today than it was when originated and will it be just as or more important in the future? Will existing idioms be changed in their wording to appeal to future generations and where will new idioms come from? In a world that is doubling it’s knowledge in the shortest time frames in the history of mankind and information on most every topic is readily available over the world wide web one needs to know what idioms one needs to keep at their ready.


Copyright 2013 Richard M. Kiernicki. All Rights Reserved.


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