Sunday, February 6, 2011


Sometimes I have more fun researching a story than writing it. That certainly is not always a good thing, but, hey. At any rate, as I was typing away, I wondered about the origins of the word "moolah," and please note, my spell check was wondering about it too. It turns out that there is no definitive story on its entomology, though this post by the Word Detective is the most interesting one out there-

One would think, with so many people wondering about the roots of “moolah,” that someone would have come up with at least one entertaining “urban legend” about the word, but no such luck.

What theories do exist about its origins are both terse and far-fetched. One holds that “moolah” derives from the French “le moulin,” meaning “the mill,” referring to factory mills as a source of wealth. Color me extremely unconvinced. But while we’re stretching plausibility to the breaking point, I must mention the recent announcement, by the Times of India newspaper, that “moolah” is the Fijian (as in Fiji, in the South Pacific) word for “money.”

Unfortunately, I lent my Fijian dictionary to my accountant last week, so I’ll have to wait until he gets back to check this assertion. But unless someone can explain how a Fijian word ended up on the lips of US gamblers and hipsters in the 1930s, I plan to ignore that theory. Yet another theory traces “moolah” to the Romany (Gypsy) word “mol,” meaning “to be worth,” which is not impossible but is considered unlikely by linguists.

Naw, those sound as hokey as the one that says it is old Spanish slang for "donkey," as apparently donkeys were fairly expensive beasts of burden. The other one that the Word Detective added made more sense-

Another theory, proposed by Daniel Cassidy in his recent book “The Secret Language of the Crossroads: How the Irish Invented Slang,” traces “moolah” to the Irish phrase “moll oir,” meaning “pile of gold.” My inclination is to consider this quite plausible, but Mr. Cassidy apparently paints with a very broad brush, also tracing “buckaroo” to the Irish “bocai rua” (wild boys). It has long been generally accepted, on solid evidence, that “buckaroo” is actually derived from the Mexican Spanish “vaquero,” meaning “cowboy.”

Begorrah! Judging by the accompanying jpeg to that post, money not only corrupts the mind, but it makes your head abnormally large and your body disappear.


Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Interesting. So mamy slang words for $. I also enjoy researching a story and the writing, but editing completely sucks!. Cassidy's book sounds intriguing, thanks for the heads up.

Katherine Tomlinson said...

Don't you LOVE the Internet? And like you and Sean, I love research too. I'm gradually getting rid of my manila folders full of research material. Now I just need a good way to organize material in my computer files. Thanks for the info.

Princess LadyBug said...

Frankly, I'd vote for less slang words for money & more actual money in my pocket. :D

Cormac Brown said...

Sean Patrick,

I'm right with you because I don't edit...well, I don't edit well. Cassidy's book does sound very interesting and very few have the talent for metaphors that the Irish do.


You know that I'm completely Internet-dependent when it comes to research, so I don't know what I'd do without it. Of course I'm always wondering how much more insight I could get by reading entire books on a particular subject.

Cormac Brown said...



Coaster Punchman said...

I admire your tenacity with these subjects.

Cormac Brown said...


Thank you for dropping by. Hey, don't you feel cheated when you read a story, and the settings and events don't ring true? A little research hopefully goes a long, long way.

Doc said...

I'm not sure I want to know where the word comes from as long as they keep sending me those big, fat checks!


Cormac Brown said...


There you are! You seem to have been laying low as of late, so I guess that you are rolling in the bucks.

okjimm said...

//Sometimes I have more fun researching a story than writing it//

Wowzers..... that kinda sounds like a parallel to courtship and marriage. hmmmmmm......

Cormac Brown said...


Um, it's much easier in theory to write a pefect short story, than it is to have a perfect relationship.