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Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'

27 Feb 13 - 07:11 AM (#3484226)
Subject: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: RoyH (Burl)

I have often wondered why this is. Can anyone tell me? I would also like to know, What is 'Moxie' and why is it good tohave plenty? I await the usual Mudcat informative response. Thank You. Roy.


27 Feb 13 - 07:37 AM (#3484234)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: GUEST,999

The term buck as a dollar from Snopes.

I'll leave moxie for others. No point ending a good thread before it takes off.


27 Feb 13 - 08:02 AM (#3484246)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: MGM·Lion

mox·ie (mks)
n. Slang
1. The ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage.
2. Aggressive energy; initiative: "His prose has moxie, though it rushes and stumbles from a pent-up surge" (Patricia Hampl).
3. Skill; know-how.
[From Moxie, trademark for a soft drink.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

moxie [ˈmɒksɪ] n
US and Canadian slang courage, nerve, or vigour
[from the trademark Moxie, a soft drink]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

.,,.

A word I have always been fond of; came across it first in the works of the great Damon Runyon as part of the lively NY slang in use among his guys and dolls.

buck 3 (bk)
n. Informal
1. A dollar.
2. An amount of money: working overtime to make an extra buck.
[Short for buckskin (from its use in trade).]


Not sure how authenticated that ~~ sound as if might be a bit of post hoc folk etymology to me. But FWIW, guess it will do till a better derivation happens by...



Cheers, Roy

~Michael~


27 Feb 13 - 08:05 AM (#3484247)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: MGM·Lion

... though, on 2nd look at the C18 quote in the Snopes entry ref'd by 999 above, it does appear to ring true.


27 Feb 13 - 08:32 AM (#3484253)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: GUEST,999

http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/dictionaries/v016/16.cassidy.pdf

About moxie.


27 Feb 13 - 01:02 PM (#3484350)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Ron Davies

The "previous pastor" in the Snopes question is amazingly supersensitive--and ignorant.

Even beyond the the question of buck as being racist --which as Snopes says is hogwash--even the term "young buck" is also not racist.   

Lots of whites use it--on themselves.    Gamble Rogers, for instance, says of his childhood in one of his stories::    "We were just young bucks-- boys growing up."

That quote from Scopes needs to be emblazoned on the foreheads of some Mudcatters--the one about "As fashionable as it is now" to see racism in all sorts of words "as if we could erase our history by eliminating some words from our vocabulary", that's absurd.


27 Feb 13 - 01:06 PM (#3484355)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: kendall

Yes, Ron, the word is from our past, which is where it should be left.

Moxie is a soft drink, popular in the northeast. Foul tasting and bitter.


27 Feb 13 - 01:10 PM (#3484357)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Ron Davies

I'll have to disagree with you, Kendall.   It's part of the richness of the language--and there's no reason it needs to be left in the past.


27 Feb 13 - 01:19 PM (#3484359)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Megan L

The only reference I ever saw to Young Buck was to an elegant young gentleman in regency period, it refered to their penchant for wearing Buckskin breeches. It was Beau Brummel who was credited with changing from breeches to trousers.


27 Feb 13 - 01:21 PM (#3484362)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: GUEST,JTT

Regency 'bucks' was a pronunciation of regency beaux.


27 Feb 13 - 02:23 PM (#3484393)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: meself

'Young buck' is a term I've heard and occasionally used for about as long as I can remember. Nothing racist about it, as far as I know. Not to say that the term 'buck' hasn't been used in racist ways (cf. The Great Gatsby) ....


27 Feb 13 - 02:45 PM (#3484407)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Bill D

Our local 'open sing' always has a suggested theme.

A number of years ago, when my wife (Ferrara) led it, she chose

"Moxie, Chutzpah, Gall and Effrontery" .. a good time was had by all


27 Feb 13 - 02:49 PM (#3484408)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Ron Davies

"heard and occasionally used..."   Exactly. That's why it's absurd to assume racist intent on the part of the speaker.

The Snopes quote is:   "As fashionable as it has become lately to ascribe all sorts of racist origins to ordinary words (as if we could eradicate unsavory aspects of our history by simply eliminating a chunk of our vocabulary)   ..."

Perfect.


27 Feb 13 - 03:25 PM (#3484424)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: michaelr

English songwriter Steve Tilston used "young buck" in his song "The Slip Jigs and Reels" to describe a young white immigrant.

Why is the British pound called a quid?


27 Feb 13 - 04:11 PM (#3484439)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Lighter

Well, I suggest there's usually a difference between a "young buck" of any description and a "black buck."

I suppose we've all heard the claims that "the jig is up" refers to lynchings and that "niggardly" is racist. Both ideas are historically absurd, though the assertions have been around for so long now that many people believe them.

Yesterday there was this:

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/us-census-bureau-drops-negro-surveys/story?id=18591761

In my day (the time of the Civil Rights movement) "Negro" (as in "American Negro College Fund") was, along with "colored people" (as in "National Association for the Advancement of Colored People") as neutral as "African American" is today. "Black" was truly insulting - at least when used by whites.

"People of color" is now as neutral as "Negro" was formerly. But "colored people" is now offensive.

Go figure.


27 Feb 13 - 04:46 PM (#3484449)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: dick greenhaus

"The Indians taught the European settlers the value of a buck. In the eighteenth century, that meant a deerskin, used for trading in its own right and as a unit of value for trading anything else. So in 1748, while in Indian territory on a visit to the Ohio, Conrad Weiser wrote in his journal, "He has been robbed of the value of 300 Bucks"; and later, "Every cask of Whiskey shall be sold...for 5 Bucks in your town."
Buck wasn't specific for one dollar bill. but originally referred to whatever unit of currency wAS COMMONLY USED.


27 Feb 13 - 04:52 PM (#3484451)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: McGrath of Harlow

"I was a lonely, teenage broncin' buck with a pink carnation and a pickup truck, but...
I knew I was out of luck the day the music died "


27 Feb 13 - 06:27 PM (#3484486)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: MGM·Lion

There is confusion here as to the use of 'buck' for 'man' [as distinct from the $; tho as will appear there is some connection relating to 'buckskin', the skin of a male deer]. The point is that there is not just one word, but there are two, which, though identical in form, and both basically meaning 'man', are differently derived and hence differ in overtone.

1. The fine young men from mid-C18 onwards, the 'young bucks' (originally plural in form, note), as a derivation from beaux.

2. An Afro slave offered for sale in the US [the female equivalent beiing 'wench'], described and catalogued by the slave-trader as a 'buck', as that iniquitous business could only exist by being predicated on the dehumanisation of its victims: part of which was thus accomplished by using a word for 'male-of-the-species' derived, not from humanity, but from various members of the animal kingdom.

So the usages derived from 1 are non-racial, complimentary even, as e.g. in Don MacLean's American Pie or Steve Tilston's Slip Jigs & Reels cited above; while those deriving from 2, as in the second line of Johnny Come Down To Hilo, may well often appear as racist.

~M~


27 Feb 13 - 06:35 PM (#3484492)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Bee-dubya-ell

I don't know why a dollar is called a "buck", but I know that "buck" rhymes with "fuck" and "dollar" rhymes with "holler". This coincidence has made it remarkably simple for any US citizen to create a passable bawdy rhyme having to do with prostitution.


27 Feb 13 - 06:44 PM (#3484494)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Bill D

I was a member of my college chapter of the NAACP in the early 60s, and watched the black/colored/Negro/Afro-American contingent...etc. argue among themselves about what word(s) were appropriate. I stayed VERY quiet in meetings as the debate continued. I knew some terms were not a good idea, but even the 'worst' were used **within** the community in certain circumstances.


27 Feb 13 - 06:50 PM (#3484495)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: McGrath of Harlow

I would think t pretty probable that the use of the word buck by slavers was essentially the same meaning as when used to refer to young men generally, meaning more or lless "a fine specimen of his kind".    Presumably arising from the same meaning in relation to young male deer.

This ties both uses, money or young men, to a common origin, namely deer, assuming that the "buckskin" source for the monetary use is correct, which sounds pretty convincing.

So it all comes back to Bambi...


27 Feb 13 - 06:57 PM (#3484496)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Ed T

Thee Canadian dollar is also called a "buck". Here is the origin of the Canadian term "buck" from a Canadian government heritage web page:


Canadian origin of Buck


27 Feb 13 - 09:12 PM (#3484538)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Lighter

According to that Canadian site:

" A coin was struck that was equal to the value of one male beaver pelt – it was known as a « buck »."

Significantly, no shred of evidence is given to show why this would have been the case. Or even that it was the case.

Supposedly it was in the 1600s - but Oxford dates the "dollar" sense only to 1856.

Of course, beavers do have buck teeth and Bucky Beaver used to advertise Ipana toothpaste. Brusha brusha brusha!


27 Feb 13 - 09:43 PM (#3484545)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: GUEST,999

In Canada, beaver has two meanings.


27 Feb 13 - 09:43 PM (#3484546)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Buck, in the sense of a dollar:

OEDS: 1856 "Bernard, assault and battery upon Wm. Croft, mulcted in the sum of twenty bucks."

J. E. Lighter, Historical Dictionary of American Slang, vol. I.

This quotation would indicate that the term is older than 1856.

OEDS: Oxford English Dictionary Supplement.


27 Feb 13 - 09:46 PM (#3484547)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Lighter

But not over 150 years older.


27 Feb 13 - 09:54 PM (#3484550)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: number 6

ok .. ok

so much for the meaning of a "buck"

I would like to know

why

a quarter is called "2 bits"


biLL


27 Feb 13 - 10:07 PM (#3484553)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Ed T

Probably pages of a more accurate site on coinage/trade and New World history is below. (The earlier one I linked does seem a bit suspect, now that I look at it again)?

HBC-Trade Silver - The Beaver

Fur trade barter

Early beaver dollars

Though there is no date cited of the early currencies used, it states that brooches (much like coins) were used in the fur trade as currency would be now (not to be confused with British currency): "A round silver brooch, the size of a shilling was rated at a shilling and a larger brooch, the size of a silver dollar, was rated at one Spanish dollar. Beaver pendants, approximately 1/2 inch in length were valued at one beaver skin.

In addition, throughout (what is now Canada) the early fur trade (French and British) the beaver pelt was a prized trade item and there seemed to be a shortage of currency, so a variety of currencies and items seemed to have been used to barter.


27 Feb 13 - 10:39 PM (#3484560)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Lighter

So, Ed, where is there even one quotation containing an actual usage of "buck," in Canada or anywhere else, to mean "dollar" before the 1850s?

While a "buck" can denote other male mammals (such as rams and male rabbits) in context, as a general rule it means specifically a male deer. And should we believe that only the pelts of male beavers ("buck beavers" presumably) were used as currency?

Even the 1856 example of "twenty bucks" (from California) is unusual. Examples in book, periodical, and newspaper databases now available strongly suggest the word didn't become familiar nationally till the 1890s.


28 Feb 13 - 09:09 AM (#3484655)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Mr Happy

What puzzles me is the term 'person of colour' - surely everyone has a certain tinge to their skin, yet we don't refer to people generally by this term


28 Feb 13 - 10:23 AM (#3484686)
Subject: RE: BS: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: meself

While the idea of 'buck' deriving from the beaver coin has some plausibility, I'm suspicious of it mainly because in the fair bit of reading I've done on the fur trade and related matters over the years, I don't believe I've ever come across that etymology.

Looking back at that 'Canadian Heritage' site, I see that there is some ambiguity in the wording - it says that the coin became known as a 'buck', and implies that that was because a male beaver pelt was known as a 'buck', but doesn't make either point directly. It leaves open the possibilities that a male beaver was not known as a 'buck', and that the coin may have been called a 'buck' for other reasons (such as that the term had already been applied to other currency?).


28 Feb 13 - 12:50 PM (#3484733)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Lighter

Nor does it say *when* the dollar coins were first called "bucks," though it invites us to assume that the answer is "from the beginning."

Never assume.

My educated guess is that it only happened after the U.S. "buck" became generally familiar to Canadians.


28 Feb 13 - 01:55 PM (#3484757)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: GUEST,999

biLL: regarding two bits and the quarter, here ya go.


28 Feb 13 - 02:01 PM (#3484762)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: MGM·Lion

I have heard that familiar "Pom-tiddly-om-pom pom pom" coda or round-off tune verbalised as "Shave and a haircut, six bits!". When could you get those for 75 cents, I wonder? Well, not that long ago, actually. I remember when they would cost about 1/6 [a shilling and sixpence] here.

~M~


28 Feb 13 - 02:44 PM (#3484782)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

A diller a taler, a ten o'clock scholar.


28 Feb 13 - 03:24 PM (#3484789)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

I should have noted that the 1856 quotation implying the use of buck for dollar came from a Sacramento (CA) newspaper. (OED)

By the 1890s, the expression seems to have been fairly common, at least in print.

No link to the Canadian "made beaver" or other fur trade token.

Dollar- a corruption of thaler, the silver coin that was common for several centuries in Europe. It was also acceptable elsewhere. They were re-struck and became common in trade because their weight was standard.


28 Feb 13 - 05:39 PM (#3484836)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: dick greenhaus

Wiester's quote was dated 1748, and suggests earlier usage.

BTW-does anyone remember the remarkably un-PC ad that showed a tired looking bAmerind, a fetching young lady and a caption "A buck well spent on a Springmaid Sheet?"


28 Feb 13 - 06:48 PM (#3484856)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Lighter

Dick, Weiser's quote doesn't refer to a dollar bill or a dollar coin or a dollar in the abstract.

It means a buckskin that happens to be valued - we think - at a dollar. He was addressing a council of Indians in Pennsylvania to whom he gave "wampum" - not English money:

http://tinyurl.com/ctx75t9

What's more, the only kind of "dollar" in circulation at the time was the Spanish milled dollar ("piece of eight") - not the U.S. currency, which didn't appear until 1792.

It's a long, long way from 1748 to 1856.


01 Mar 13 - 09:20 AM (#3485082)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: McGrath of Harlow

Any link with the usage in the expression "the buck stops here"?


01 Mar 13 - 10:00 AM (#3485094)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Will Fly

From the Great & Glorious Wiki...

The expression is said to have originated from poker, in which a marker or counter (e.g., a knife with a buckhorn handle during the American Frontier era) was used to indicate the person whose turn it was to deal. If the player did not wish to deal he could pass the responsibility by passing the "buck", as the counter came to be called, to the next player.


01 Mar 13 - 10:00 AM (#3485095)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Bob the Postman

Mr. Google informs me that there are no special terms for male or female beavers, although juveniles are called "kits". He further states that, unusually among mammals, male beavers are typically smaller than females, so a prime beaver pelt would probably be from what might be but isn't called a "doe" beaver.

Finally, off my own bat, "buck" could refer to a deer CARCASE rather than its hide.   Hide for leather would have been much less valuable than pelts for luxury goods and so would be less likely to be reckoned a medium of exchange. But fresh venison was much in demand at trading posts and was typically purchased from local Natives.


01 Mar 13 - 10:10 AM (#3485102)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: JohnInKansas

At least in some parts of the US, the traditional explanation of "two bits" for the quarter (US version) is that there was very little coinage available, so a "dollar" coin was frequently cut into pieces to make change.

Cut across a diameter, it's easy to make eight "bits" by cutting each piece in half, each half in half again, and the each of the four pieces in half; but anything smaller is hard to keep track of and it's hard to tell if one was made by "honest cuts." (And only excellent geometers of the time could possibly cut one in tenths, although twelths would have been possible.)

For much of our history (a fair fraction of how long we've been around) there was no "official" coinage available for widespread use, and each bank, or sometimes each individual shopkeeper**, issed their own. (One might assume that wooden dollars were a lot easier to cut into "bits" than metal ones, but "local coins" made out of local materials could be made in many more denominations?)

This explanation is frequently seen in historical reports, but verification would be difficult due to the number of conflicting fantasies.

"Explaining" US slang terms on the basis of British precedents is not generally as reliable as some may assume, although "every good lie needs at least a half truth buried within it."

** "or saloon" might be added. A belt buckle I've worn for about 50 years is claimed to be a derivative from a "coin" used for change at "Rosie's Saloon and Good Time Emporium - Good for one free redeye and ride." (If you could only get change in "house coin" you had to come back and spend the change at the same place?)

John


01 Mar 13 - 10:40 AM (#3485106)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Lighter

> verification would be difficult due to the number of conflicting fantasies.

Truer and truer about more and more with each passing day.


01 Mar 13 - 12:30 PM (#3485140)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: beardedbruce

John,

During the colonial period, the spanish pillar dollar "Piece of eight" ,which was often cut into halves and quarters , was in circulation, along with many other coins. The weight was the value- a silver piece that had the weight of a dollar was worth a dollar. In general the US dollar was not cut up.

For many years, the standard denomination used between banks to balance exchanges was the half-dollar- hence the avaliability of many older ones that had been in bank bags for the last 100-180 years.

US Coinage was started in 1792. In the early days, ANYONE could take assayed metal ( gold, silver) to the Mint and get coins of equal weight ( minus a small fee) made.

Trade tokens were sometimes used when small change was not available, especially during and after the Civil War. There were many "private" coinages of gold in California, post 1849.
In some, the weight rather than value was used- there were several series of small ingots with the assayed weight and purity that circulated.


BTW, the standard units of US coinage were the mill, the cent ( 10 mills), the dime ( 10 cents), the dollar ( 10 dimes or 100 cents) , the eagle ( 10 dollars), and the union ( 10 eagles)

Coinage has been in the following denominations:

1/2 cent ( copper)
1 cent (copper, steel, now zinc)
2 cents (copper)
3 cents ( both nickel and silver)
5 cents ( both nickel and silver)
10 cents (silver, now nickel and copper)
20 cents (silver)
25 cents ( gold, silver, now nickel and copper)
50 cents (gold, silver, now nickel and copper)
1 dollar ( gold, silver, nickel and copper, now manganese bronze)
$2.50 (gold)
$3 (gold)
$4 (gold)
$5 (gold)
$10 ( gold)
$20 (gold)
$50 (gold)

This does NOT include the current "bullion" coins, with face values of $1 for an ounce of silver and $100 for an ounce of Platinum. They are in 1 oz silver, 1/10 , 1/4, 1/2, and 1 oz gold, and 1/10 , 1/4, 1/2, and 1 oz platinum


01 Mar 13 - 12:59 PM (#3485146)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: JohnInKansas

No argument that the US didn't have coinage from quite early. The point of the stories is that there wasn't enough of it widely available in many parts of the country until much later, so local "coins" (and printed bills) were fairly common in many places.

Most such "funny money" was not particularly durable, so few samples seem to have survived, but I don't know whether many have ever done significant collecting or that anyone has done much documentation of what they looked like.

Like Confederate money, if the issuing business failed (which was fairly frequent?) they were worthless, so it's likely most were discarded, lost, or in the case of bills used to start the campfire.

Although the stories are common, real evidence is scant; so the explanation is "lore" rather than history and it doesn't matter much whether it's the real truth.

John


01 Mar 13 - 01:50 PM (#3485153)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: dick greenhaus

Jon-
My quote a only intended to illustrate the early use of "buck" as a unit of currency.

BTW, re "dollar", check out Macbeth: "That now
Sweno, the Norways' king, craves composition:
Nor would we deign him burial of his men
Till he disbursed at Saint Colme's inch
Ten thousand dollars to our general use.
Act 1 scene 2


01 Mar 13 - 02:19 PM (#3485161)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: GUEST,olddude

In the early 1800's a dollar was worth a male deer .. literally a buck. Hence the term


01 Mar 13 - 04:17 PM (#3485195)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Nice myth, olddude.


02 Mar 13 - 10:38 AM (#3485474)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Ron Davies

"If the player did not wish to deal" from Wiki.

This may not be the last word.   Another site says that certainly the buck could have been the marker used in poker, but it had nothing to do with refusing to deal; it was simply procedure to pass the buck (often a knife with handle made of buck's horn) to the next person to deal. The ( buck's horn) knife signified the responsibility to deal. When that dealer was finished, he "passed the buck" on to the next person.


02 Mar 13 - 11:06 AM (#3485485)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Lighter

In my understanding of poker, RD is correct.

Harry S Truman popularized "The buck stops here" by prominently keeping an engraved plaque with the saying on his White House desk.


02 Mar 13 - 03:15 PM (#3485551)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Ed T

""as a general rule it (buck) means specifically a male deer"".

Where is such a general rule written, as you seem to suggest? If it were so, Deer are not exclusive to the USA.

""And should we believe that only the pelts of male beavers ("buck beavers" presumably) were used as currency""?

I suspect this question would also logically apply to male deer pelts?


""My educated guess is that it only happened after the U.S. "buck" became generally familiar to Canadians.""

One persons guess is as good as anothers, as would the burden of proof/evidence, I guess:)


02 Mar 13 - 10:15 PM (#3485675)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: McGrath of Harlow

Except that male beavers aren't called bucks, and the term never seems to have been used. All beavers have teeth with some similarity to what are called buck teeth in humans, but that doesn't seem a very probable reason for calling currency with a picture of a beaver a buck.

Far more likely would have been that the term was already in use informally, perhaps related to the use of deerskins as a medium of exchange in trade.

As for the objection that that would imply that only male deer skins were involved, it's pretty common to use the term duck and dog, for example, to refer to both sexes.


02 Mar 13 - 10:47 PM (#3485681)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Ed T

The assumption that the size of a female beaver skin would be larger I suspect is just that...as from what I can determine the size seems similar, though some of the charasteristics for hat making (a main use of these furs in the early period) may differ.

Do we know that fur trappers and traders of the day did not have different commonly used local industry terms for male and female beavers (as industries often do), and as the site I linked earlier (which is also listed in other internet sites) indicate...I suspect most here cannot certify that this was not the case. I have noted that there is often many different common terms used locally for the same species, beyond official terms.

The early colonial fur trade (French, British and Dutch) was mainly northern controlled until the Jay Treaty, I would expect a significant influence on this industry from that direction.

It is also not out of the realm of possibility that the term buck came from common colonial influence, or from separate sources, as the word is used in many different situations. Has anyone cited good evidence that deerskins was the source in both nations, beyond assumptions and local folklore?

As it interests me, I will email the Canadian heritage site and ask for the source of their information. If they cannot provide it, I will ask that they take the information down.


02 Mar 13 - 11:10 PM (#3485684)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Ed T

Another interesting item is the Hudson Bay Company's (involved in the fur trade since 1668)original motto was "Porta Vacat Culpa" which is latin (general translation) a skin for skin (or a some say for a fur).


03 Mar 13 - 08:56 AM (#3485806)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Lighter

In preference to a reasoned argument, backed by verifiable evidence, one is free to believe any unsupported and unlikely claim from cyberspace one likes.

But that doesn't change the facts: deer skins were used in place of cash, were referred to as "bucks," and were valued at a Spanish dollar, for more than a century before "buck" became a slang synonym for an actual U.S. dollar.

Meanwhile, the evidence that Canadian beaver skins were really meant, they were ever called "bucks" (when most people would have thought that meant deer skins), that a Canadian dollar coin (assuming it even existed when Canada still used the pound sterling) was called a "buck" in the 17th century, and that this is the true origin of a U.S. term apparently unknown in Canada till long after it was familiar in the U.S. is (the envelope please!) ..... zero.

But, hey, if it wasn't true, how did it get on a website?


03 Mar 13 - 09:20 AM (#3485808)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: GUEST,999

Another explanation here.


03 Mar 13 - 09:30 AM (#3485809)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Bob the Postman

"pro pelle cutem" means "a skin for a skin"

"porta vacat culpa" means "the door is blameless"


03 Mar 13 - 10:24 AM (#3485821)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: GUEST,999

adde parvum parvo magnus acervus erit

Ovid


03 Mar 13 - 10:37 AM (#3485824)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: GUEST,999

Buck has passed into slang with expressions like "I got tagged doing a buck-fifty by the RCs."


03 Mar 13 - 10:57 AM (#3485829)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: meself

I must have missed something - why "a U.S. term apparently unknown in Canada till long after it was familiar in the U.S."? Do we have some evidence of when it was or wasn't known in Canada?


03 Mar 13 - 11:56 AM (#3485848)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Lighter

Well, for one thing, Canada didn't switch from pounds to dollars till 1858. That says something right there.

If you have a library card and still need convincin', you can view the Oxford English Dictionary online here for free:

http://www.oed.com/

There you'll find a verified, authentic, and unambiguous example of "buck" from a Sacramento, Calif., newspaper in 1856. The journalist didn't even feel he had to define the word.   

The evidence-based judgment of generations of OED editors - and everyone else who's seriously looked into this - is: "orig. and chiefly U.S."

No mention of beaver bucks in Colonial Canada, either.


03 Mar 13 - 12:35 PM (#3485863)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Having owned a Hudsons Bay River Lot on the North Saskatchewan River and interested in the Company for many years, I agree with Lighter that there is no evidence of the use of "buck" in Canada as a unit of currency in the "old" days.
In addition to use of the pound sterling by the British colonists, it should be added that French Canada of the 17th-18th C. used French coinage until the English defeated them. The fur-trading companies issued tokens in trade, but these were never valued as a buck or anything equivalent to that.

The 1856 record of buck as a unit of currency (in California, at least) is intriguing; diaries and papers of West Coast settlers and travelers of that time may contain additional information.


03 Mar 13 - 01:05 PM (#3485875)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Ed T

""But, hey, if it wasn't true, how did it get on a website?""

There are a variety of websites, including this one. Many have sketchy or no information sources and one can easily make personal assumptions in many directions using just about any info.

I would expect a Canadian government heritage website to have some level of source accuracy. If not, it needs to be rectified. It seems reasonable to take them up on their claims.

Of course, Canada or USA currency did not exist before the countries were formed? However, early barter items did, including fur industry coins and tokens. IMO, It is not "a reach"to speculate that many of these items had local common terms-that could have easily caught on and morphed into broader use and in later currency. And, skin/fur related common terms makes sense. I suspect most fur traders and suppliers traded all available animal furs/skins - including white tail deer and beaver at the same time. The specific skin that was on their mind in tranactions may have been different in different areas, depending on the mix and traders involved.

(Regardless, Lighter, why so tense on the topic? It is just another mudcat topic with little actual consequence to any of us? With more information, we all learn. Sometimes this involves different perspectives early on - again all good).


03 Mar 13 - 01:10 PM (#3485879)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Et T- "with little actual consequence to any of us?"
More information would be helpful but idle speculation serves no purpose.


03 Mar 13 - 01:50 PM (#3485895)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Lighter

Me? Tense?

I'm just old-fashioned enough to think that facts matter, and if something's worth asking, it's worth knowing the facts about.

GOOD-NATURED IRONY AHEAD:

But on the other hand, as so many partisans keep teaching us, "facts" reported by serious researchers are just the opinions of people who won't believe what you want them to. I should be cooler with that.

And to me, at least, "not a stretch" usually means "not cosmically impossible, so the lack of confirming evidence means nothing except that it may still really be true anyway, and you can't deny that, can you?"

END IRONY.

> I would expect a Canadian government heritage website to have some level of source accuracy.

Me too, but as an American president once said, "Trust but verify." Journalistic pronouncements on language usage and history are notoriously unreliable.


03 Mar 13 - 02:43 PM (#3485914)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: McGrath of Harlow

That website didn't say anything about beavers being called bucks. It just said there was a currency note with a beaver on it and that the note was called a buck.


03 Mar 13 - 03:17 PM (#3485923)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Ed T

Q, True,
However, I suspect the source of this information is with Canadian Heritage department who seems to be the source of this information (both on the use of Buck for male Beaver and the use of the term Buck, prior to the Beaver Made coin. - this is repeated on a number of web sites (no need to list them), and in a number of news articles. If you followed the discussion, you will note that I earlier noted the site I linked seems a bit "sketchy" an I indicated I would seek clearification from Cdn Heritage on its source (I believe they are closed on week-ends, and government folk tend to be slow in responding).

My reference was not at all to Canadian currency, of course, as it did not exist in those early days (as Canada did not). The reference was to an early fur trading HBC trading coin used before the Made Beaver trading coin was put into use, this is the one the Cdn Heritage site referrs to in the early colonial fur trade industry was locally called "a buck".

First British Colonial dollar used was Spanish?

Lighter, One mans "fact" is often seen as an opinion by another - this can often be influenced by the tone taken:-w hich is often difficult to determine on online chat sites). Nice to see your mudcat name matches your intent:)   

Oxford (and other) dictionaries are certainly a good general source of word definitions - origins. But, I suspect historical accuracy could be better served than with a dictonary definition of a word or two.

It is rare to see a word "pop up" out of nowhere. Language and terms most often evolve from more than one source. At times, they evolve on a separate course in different nations, from historic sources and different experiences of that population. I believe it is significant that both deer and beaver were used for their skins, not as fur. Both were historically and economically important- but Beaver skin may have been much more economically important in an earlier period. I suspect(though have no evidence) that the term skin (often used to refer to money) morphed into buck (for whatever historic reason).

If you read many perspectives of the word Buck (as in dollar) you will see that it was used very early in the USA. Below is an interesting perspective on Buck, that indicates that there many years spread between the common use of the word and industry use of the word in the USA (a 1748 source is cited in the article that seems reliable, which is also before the USA dollar existed):


""As the preferred slang term for what Washington Irving called "the almighty dollar," buck in all likelihood sprang from buck skin or buck hide -- a commodity of exchange, and metaphorically a loose measure of value, in Colonial trade with Native Americans. ("He has been robbed of the value of 300 Bucks, & you all know by whom" -- this 1748 quotation comes from the Ohio River Valley, and is cited in Mitford M. Mathews's A Dictionary of Americanisms.) The earliest undisputed example of buck in the precise sense of "dollar" ("mulcted for the sum of twenty bucks") has a Sacramento provenance, and dates back only to Gold Rush times. Although the Forty-niners may well have popularized this new sense, traders at outposts east of the Continental Divide were probably already using it; the scanty written records of vernacular speech of the time preclude certainty. Unlisted in early slang dictionaries, buck seems not to have gained national popularity until the 1890s -- a good example of the slow dissemination of slang in the days before radio, television, and the Internet."" source: Buck from 1748 to 1890's


03 Mar 13 - 05:42 PM (#3485987)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: meself

Sorry - still haven't seen the least bit of evidence as to when the term 'buck' was known or unknown in Canada. Evidence that it was known at one place at a certain time does not preclude the possibility that it was known at another place. As for the use of pounds and/or dollars - not relevant; there seems to be no question that a 'beaver' coin was used long before 1858 - neither pound nor dollar.


03 Mar 13 - 05:55 PM (#3486001)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Ed T

Patience, patience, meself;)

Too much effort has gone toward other exploits, stimulating thought on potential other USA folklore-internet-myths.

If you have clear evidence that a buck-called coin was actualy historically used in reference to the skin of a whitetail deer-that it is only of USA origin, not of the other part of the British fur trading colony of the time, (where the much-fur-trading HBC was actually centered), why not put forward yourself (meself) for consideration? When going back into local expressions centuaries ago, it is unlikely that evidence emerges overnight on mudcat - research takes time to mature, much like a good wine:)


03 Mar 13 - 06:09 PM (#3486007)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Ed T

Sorry about the last post- I mistook this thread for the argument room one.

Regardless, I capture 69:)


03 Mar 13 - 07:01 PM (#3486023)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: meself

"If you have clear evidence that a buck-called coin was actualy historically used in reference to the skin of a whitetail deer-that it is only of USA origin, not of the other part of the British fur trading colony of the time, (where the much-fur-trading HBC was actually centered), why not put forward yourself (meself) for consideration?"

I have no such evidence, and I don't know what makes you suppose I would. Furthermore, I have no opinion to speak of on the matter; I'm just trying to get some clarification as to why it is seemingly 'apparent' that the term 'buck' was unknown in Canada before, I guess, the late 19th century, or maybe earlier 20th. Or later?

Oh, I just realized - my previous post was not in response to your (Ed T.'s) lengthy one; it was in response to an earlier one by Lighter. I should have made that clear - sorry!


03 Mar 13 - 07:04 PM (#3486027)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Lighter

Since the U.S. primacy of "buck" 'dollar' is well established by the Oxford English dictionary and all others sources that go into any detail, burden is upon those who claim a Canadian origin to present their evidence and explain why it is logically to be preferred.

Canadian evidence so far: an unsourced assertion on a website that explains nothing.

The earliest Canadian example of "buck" 'dollar' in the OED is from 1927. That's considerably later than the 1850s.

When "one man's fact is another man's opinion," at least one of those men is a nitwit. In this case the contenders are a public-relations website and the Oxford English Dictionary, which, incidentally, not only cites its sources but actually quotes them.

But, dude, who knows what's true and what isn't? Just because nobody landed on the green-cheese part of the moon doesn't mean most of it isn't green cheese. And I'm talking a whopping 99%.


03 Mar 13 - 07:06 PM (#3486030)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: McGrath of Harlow

Arguing about whether the term buck first came into use in the USA is a bit daft when it seems to be about a time when neither country existed.

It would be surprising if there was any suggesting that 'buck' was a term used to refer to beavers on any site with any pretensions to speaking with authority. I'd not be the least surprised at anything that gets posted in the dafter reaches of the Internet.


03 Mar 13 - 07:34 PM (#3486034)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: GUEST,999

One of the many things I like about Kevin is his smarts AND his sense of timing. Had he not thought too deeply he coulda bin a philosofer.


03 Mar 13 - 07:49 PM (#3486037)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Ed T

Open your horizons, Lighter - just a suggestion, as I am not trying to get into a patrotic argument - just seeking the historic liklihood of the first use a commonly used term - that doesn't involves a scientific evidence statement on the origin of the universe that invokes such rigid evidence (that likely does not exist on any claim regarding such stuff) - (I note you choose to ignore the 1748 statement ummm?).

:)


03 Mar 13 - 08:45 PM (#3486054)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

I have been going through the journals of Alfred Doten, who came to California in 1849 as a prospector and stayed as a farmer; the period 1849 to 1857 so far. He listed his financial gains and expenses in detail but I can find no mention of "buck" (Sacramento newspaper 1856).
He uses dollars fractionally and decimally ("washed 180 buckets today and got 20 dollars" or "only made 4 1/2 dollars today"). His purchases are stated decimally. In one day of washing, he does add "two-bits" to his take in gold, but "buck" does not appear.

I will carry on into the 1860s of these rather voluminous diaries.

"The Journals of Alfred Doten, 1849-1903," edit. Walter Van Tilburg Clark, 1973, University of Nevada Press, Three volumes.


03 Mar 13 - 08:58 PM (#3486057)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Lighter

Q, I've read those. Don't get your hopes up.

The best parts, of course, are in code.


03 Mar 13 - 09:23 PM (#3486066)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Canada, Fur trade tokens:
The first were the Northwest Company copper and brass tokens of 1820, which could be exchanged for goods in their west coast posts.
The Hudson's Bay Company did not issue tokens until 1854; these had the values of 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and 1 made beaver.

Prior to these dates, if the transaction demanded currency, the coins of French Canada (Deners and sols) and British Colonies (Penny, etc.) were used (or monies of the parent countries).

None of these early coinages or their denominations were related in any way, or were ever referred to, as a "buck."

Canadian Heritage (Patrimoine canadien) is responsible for programs and policies relating to arts, culture, language, etc., etc., but does not have anything pertinent to this thread.

I don't know when the dollar was called a "buck" with any frequency in the U.S. (1890s?) but it is likely Canadians would have seen or heard that usage and used it soon thereafter.


03 Mar 13 - 09:49 PM (#3486072)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Lighter, the "code" seems to be exposed in the preface.

The volumes are weighty. I have been reading them at my breakfast table, a volume by my plate since they are too heavy to read in bed. I was looking for slang of the period, but Mr. Doten does not use much of it.


04 Mar 13 - 07:20 AM (#3486160)
Subject: RE: Folklore: why is the US dollar called a 'buck?'
From: Lighter

> Lighter, the "code" seems to be exposed in the preface.

That's how I know those are the best parts.