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BBC – Capital – The strange origins of the dollar symbol



The dollar sign is one of the most powerful symbols in the world and stands for far more than the US currency.

It is an abbreviation for the American dream and all its associated consumerism and its associated marketing, which at one time means sunny longing and sparkling greed and rampant capitalism. It was borrowed from pop culture (think of Ke $ ha when it started, or any number of fast fashion T-shirts) and artists (Salvador Dali made a mustache out of it, Andy Warhol did it in acrylic and painted silkscreen that creates an iconic work that now sells itself for $$$.]

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It is widely used in computer coding and offers money-mouth emoji with dazed eyes and a lolling tongue Despite its multi-lingual ubiquity, the origins of the dollar sign are still there For a long time it is not clear that competing theories refer to Bohemian coins, the pillars of Hercules, and the hunted merchants.

The baby of the dollar, which is anything but worthless cent, is logically there made by a small "c" with a solid line, but there is no "D" in the dollar sign. If you had to find letters that lurked in their shape, you could spy out an "S" superimposed on a compressed "U" without bending and providing its vertical strokes. In fact, this is one of the common misconceptions about the origin of the sign: it stands for the United States, right?

That's what the writer, philosopher and famous libertarian Ayn Rand believed. In a chapter of her 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged one character asks another for what the dollar sign stands for. The answer is as follows: "For achievement, success, ability, for the creative power of man – and for exactly these reasons, it is used as a sign of shame. It stands for the initials of the United States. "

It seems Rand was wrong, not least because the US was known as the United States colonies until 1776, and there is evidence that the dollar sign was previously used. The United States was born.

The British pound sign has a history dating back 1200 years, when it was used by the Romans as an abbreviation for "libra pondo," the basic unit of weight of the empire. As every amateur astrologer will tell you, Libra means Latin and Libra pondo literally means "a pound by weight".

In Anglo-Saxon England, the pound became a monetary unit that – surprise, surprise – was worth a pound of silver. In other words, great wealth. But along with the Roman name, the Anglo-Saxons borrowed the sign, a decorated letter "L". The crossbar came later, suggesting that it is an abbreviation, and a review in the London Museum of the Bank of England shows that the pound sign had assumed its current form until 1661, although it took a little longer for it to become universal was accepted.

] Logically, though unimaginatively, the coin was called joachimsthaler, which was then shortened to thaler, the word that spread throughout the world.

The dollar has a much shorter history. In 1520, the Kingdom of Bohemia began coinage with silver from a mine in Joachimsthal – which translates roughly from German into English as Joachimstal. Logically, though unimaginatively, the coin was called "Joachimsthaler", which was then shortened to "Taler". This word spread throughout the world. It was the Dutch variant, the Daler, who found his way across the Atlantic in the pockets and tongues of early immigrants, and today's American-English pronunciation of the word "dollar" retains its echo.

Despite the relative youthfulness of the currency, there is no clear answer to the question of where the dollar sign came from. No one seems to have sat down to design it, and its shape still wavers – sometimes it has two lines, increasingly only one. Not that there are not many competing hypotheses. For example, if you remember the idea that a U and an S are hidden in their form, they are presumed to be "silver units."

One of the most esoteric origin stories connects her with the Bohemian Taler, which showed a serpent on a Christian cross. This itself was an allusion to the story of Moses wrapping a bronze serpent around a pole to heal people who had been bitten. The dollar, it is said, derives from this sign.

Another version focuses on the Pillars of Hercules, a phrase conjured up by the ancient Greeks to describe the headlands that flank the entrance to the Straits of Gibraltar. The columns of the Spanish national coat of arms were mapped in the 18th and 19th centuries on the Spanish dollar, which was also referred to as piece of the Eight or Peso. The columns are wrapped in S-shaped banners, and you do not have to blink much to see a similarity to the dollar sign.

The most widely used theory is indeed based on Spanish coinage. In the colonies, trade between Spanish and English Americans was lively, and the peso or peso de ocho reales was a superstar in the US until 1857. & # 39; s & # 39; Besides. Gradually this "P" merged with the "S" and lost its curvature, leaving the vertical line like a pole in the middle of the "S". A Spanish dollar was more or less worth an American dollar, so it's easy to see how the sign could have been transferred.

As with all American at the moment, the debate over the descent of the dollar sign has a biased dimension: dueling For political reasons, one faction advocates the idea that it is indigenous, another that it was imported.

The debate over the origin of the dollar sign has a biased dimension: for political reasons, one faction advocates the idea that it is indigenous, another faction it has been imported

It is certainly ironic – though not surprising – that a symbol so inherent in America's national character that it could have its roots in another country. But regardless of how this came about, it is certainly an American invention: he may not have been the sole creator, but the correspondence of the Irish-born Oliver Pollock, a rich merchant and early advocate of the American Revolution, has often led him to Historians are called as authors.

And as for the first printed dollar sign made in the 1790s in a Philadelphia print shop, and was the work of a staunch American patriot – or at least a vehemently anti-English The Scotsman named Archibald Binny, whom we call today remembered as the creator of the Monticello script.

If you really want to topple a rabbit hole with mysterious symbolism, you should look at the origins of the American dollar bill design. Eye of Providence, anybody?

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