• dollar •
dah-lÍr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: We might underestimate the number of countries that use the dollar as their basic monetary unit. Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Brunei, Canada, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Fiji, Grenada, Guyana, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Kiribati, Liberia, Nauru, New Zealand, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, the Solomon Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, the United States, and Zimbabwe use it. A dollar is worth 100 cents everywhere.
Notes: In the US people so eschew such venal interests as money, we have created a plethora of slang substitutes for dollar—a buck, a clam, a greenback, smacker, a bean, a simoleon, among others. The symbol for today's word is "$," as $15 = 15 dollars. This symbol originally had two lines through the S, remnants of an earlier U, which was "US" with one letter superimposed over the other. Dollarization occurs when the people of a country adopt the dollar exclusively because of the instability of their own currency. Dollarization may be official or unofficial. In a visit to Russia during the reign of Boris Yeltsin, a friend told me, "Robert, in Russia the currency of my own country is no good! I have to pay the taxi driver in dollars." That was unofficial dollarization.
In Play: The dollar and the symbol that represents it ($) have become powerful symbols of good and evil around the world because of its economic impact: "Tiffany Lampe was in love with Phil Anders until she told him she was a millionaire. Then she could only see dollar signs in his eyes." "Another day, another dollar" is a bit of folk wisdom that tells how much we've changed and how far we've come.
Word History: Today's word began as the German thaler, the name of several silver coins in use in Germany from the 16th to the 19th centuries; especially the 3-mark coin in service from 1857 to 1873. Similar coins were used in the North countries, such as the Danish rigsdaler and the Swedish riksdaler. The full name of the German coin was the Joachimstaler "the Joachim Valley thing," after Joachimsthal "Joachim Valley" (in Bohemia), where they were first minted. It also occurs in Neanderthal man, bones of whom were found in a valley that was named in honor of Joachim Neander, a well-known German cleric at the time. The Germanic word that gave us thal "valley" in German became dale in English.
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