Posts tagged ‘money’

May 12, 2011

Face value

You might hear sentences and phrase like “don’t take this at face value” or “Can this be taken at face value?” So what does take someone or something at face value mean?

If you take something at face value you accept something as it appears, believe that they are the way they appear to be.  The same concept holds for people, to take somebody at face value also means to believe they are who they say they are and that their actions do not have any hidden agendas.

Don't take the info at face value, pic:

The phrase obviously derives from money – there the face value is the number that is written on it rather than the actual value of whatever you are handing over.  In case of a penny made between 1909 and 1982 (forget about rare and extra valuable ones for a second) the face value is $0.01 but the metal value of the (mostly) copper penny is $0.026.  The opposite is true for almost all other coins/notes (exception: Nickels made between 1946 and 2011) where the face value is higher than the value of the metal or paper they are made of.

Anyway, here is another example of using the phrase that has nothing to do with money “You shouldn’t take what people post about themselves on online dating sites at face value.  Generally they make themselves sound much better than they are.”

April 29, 2011

Credit cards

Credit cards to the rescue! pic:

Books can be written – and big ones at that – about the use and abuse of credit cards in this country.  Before the 2008-09 big economic slump hit it was easier to sign up for a credit card then renewing your drivers license (a lot easier), faster than having a manicure and for many more frequent than taking a walk.

Back then, we must have gotten 10 letters every week trying to entice us to sign up for this or that credit card which we, of course, were already pre-approved for.  Sometime the envelop contained checks that could be used immediately – so one could start spending against the new credit card without any delay.  This way you could finally get rid off last year’s TV and buy that new one with the somewhat flatter screen and the 2 inches more in diameter.

This changed when people were unable to repay their TVs which – a year or so later – had pretty much lost all value due to larger and even flatter models but where still 95% unpaid for.

Now there is somewhat of a resurgence.  Nothing like before but we do get solicitations regularly again.  They now entice you with all sorts of stuff, the latest one, which I just saw today in an email from my son’s school.  The spiel is:  get the Target Red Card and a minuscule percentage of your purchases will be donated to the school.

So this is where we are at right now: schools are defunded by the State and Federal governments because we really can’t afford to give our children a good education – so big corporations to the rescue (target made just over $1B in profits in Q1 2011) who can throw a few morsels at the local schools.

Am I the only one thinking that there is something wrong with this picture?

February 3, 2011

Turn on a dime

Another phrase involving money, or more specifically a dime, a 10 cent coin, the smallest coin in the US.  The expression is “to turn on a dime”.

Something that turns on an dime changes direction very quickly, more or less instantaneously.  The origin of the expression goes back to to high performance cars, airplanes, boats.  The ability to turn around on the smallest of coins implies that you can turn very quickly in a very small space.  Turning on a dime does not imply change for better or worse, just quick change.

Here are two examples:

“We are all hoping the economy will improve quickly but it is not likely it will turn on a dime.”

And in a more literal sense: “I love this little car.  It can turn on a dime.”

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January 15, 2011

Confusing words: spendthrift

This one I used wrongly for the longest time and it still gives me pause every time I use it (which isn’t very often, because I still am afraid I will get it wrong: spendthrift.

Marie Antoinette - the archetypical spendthrift, pic:

When I first heard the word I thought: easy – spend like in spending money, thrifty as in being careful about how much you spend on what – so a spendthrift person is someone who spends their money wisely and carefully.

Wrong!  A spendthrift is the exact opposite – a person who spends money extravagantly, recklessly and wastefully.   Or, to use another not so common word spendthrift means profligate.  Go figure!

I didn’t find any very convincing explanations for why this word means to opposite of what it should mean.  Wiki might have done it best by saying that a spendthrift is a person who is able to recklessly spend money that was acquired by the thrift of others.

I guess, this is just one of those words one has to memorize and not rely on intuition.



December 15, 2010


bucks, loot, dough, pic: © Christophe Villedieu |

Money has many names not just in the US and it is important to understand the most frequently used ones and any connotations they might have.

“Bucks” is probably the most frequently used substitute for dollar.  It is very broadly used and fairly casual.  It can be used in casual conversation at work or outside.  For example, you can ask a colleague to lend you five bucks for a coffee and a muffin because  you forgot your wallet.  In a business plan that you send to possible investors you should probably not ask them to fund your company to the tune of 5 million bucks, though.

Dough, loot, moolah are all acceptable but even more slangy words for money.  You could say (to your friends) about someone: that guy has a lot of dough.  That would mean the same thing as saying “he is loaded”.  An example from the Internet for loot is the following headline: “Rappers don’t make loot” subtitle: artists don’t make money from record deals.

Then there is a variety of terms for certain notes: a c-note or a Benjamin is a $100 note.  Both these expressions are slang and aren’t to be used in non-casual conversation.  The same is true when using “grand” for $1,000.  Using the term “K” to indicate thousands, however, is very frequently used even in business language.


“The company raised 50K .”

“The new lab equipment costs a total of 150K including the software.”

“Even a small house in Silicon Valley costs about 900K”

There are more but it is probably not a great idea to use words that are otherwise associated with drug dealers or mobsters.

December 6, 2010

Throwing money

The easy solution: throwing money at a problem, pic:

If you have a problem that you want solved one way of doing so might be to throw money at it.

Throwing money at the problem  might not be the best method, however, which is reflected by the fact that the expression is frequently used in the negative sense to indicate that the money is not the best way of solving whatever problem one is trying to tackle.

In the negative sense throwing money at the problem implies that one is doing more of the same (which has not been a stupendous success in the past) instead of trying something new and hopefully more innovative and promising. Throwing money at the problem therefore isn’t a smart solution, just the most easy one.

Here are some usage examples:

“We won’t just throw money at the problem,” Barack Obama in 2008, then the president-elect, about his economic recovery plan.

Guy:  “I don’t know what to get my girl-friend for her birthday!”

Friend: “Just throw money at the problem: buy her a diamond bracelet and I guarantee you she will be happy.”