Clean out of spondulicks!
While looking up something else, I came across the slang word spondulicks, meaning “money.” It has a U.S. origin, but I don’t recall having ever noticed it before.
It’s in the OED:
spondulicks: n. slang. orig. U.S. [Of fanciful formation.] Money, cash. Also, a piece of money, a coin. 1857 in R. H. Thornton Amer. Gloss. (1912), He lost..All the brass and all the needful, All the spondulix and buttons.
Spondulicks may derive from Greek spondylikos, “vertebra,” which derives from spondylos, a seashell once used as currency. Another spelling is spondulix.
The word is still in use among speakers of British English in England, Australia, and elsewhere, but it has pretty much been forgotten in its land of origin.
According to Michael Quinion at Worldwidewords, “one of its earliest appearances was in a piece about college life in the New York magazine Vanity Fair in 1860,” and it may have originated as college slang.
The vertebra sense of spondylo may have something to do with the coinage of spondulicks in the sense of money.
Blogger Doug Wilson found a reference to “spondulics” in an 1867 book, A Manual of the Art of Prose Composition for the Use of Colleges and Schools, by John Mitchell Bonnell. Included in a list of provincialisms was: “Spondulics — coin piled for counting.” Anyone who has ever played with a stack of coins will see its resemblance to the vertebrae in a bending backbone. It’s easy to see how a humorous medical student might show off his learning by coming up with the word.
spondylo– comb. form of Latin spondyl-us, “vertebra,” occurring in a few modern terms, chiefly Path. in the sense ‘of or pertaining to, connected with, the spine’, as spondylocace, -dynia, -pyosis, -tomy.
spondylitis: n. Inflammation of the vertebral column.
On the other hand, a coin dealer who has named his business The Elusive Spondulix says the word spondulix entered the American vocabulary in 1800, thanks to an exhibit of African and West Indies Cowry-shell money at the Philadelphia Mint.
Whatever its origins, the word is still being used. Here are some examples from the web:
Clicks, Bricks, and Spondulicks (title of a summary of proceedings of a conference held in Australia in 2003)
So. Is there anyone out there with the spondulicks? (someone trying to raise money)
Payday Loans Get You Spondulicks…
Online Pharmacies Entrust You To Spend Less Spondulicks On Medication
Get yourself another tasty helping, as long as you are in possession of the requisite spondulicks. —The Ground Beneath Her Feet (2000), Salman Rushdie,.
‘Listen! You told the nipper that if he came up with two thousand quid you’d give him the place. Supposing I come up with the spondulicks first, won’t I be entitled to it then?’ —The Dowry: A Novel of Ireland (2007), Walter Keady.
Browse all articles on the Vocabulary category or check the recommended content for you below:
Improve your English in 5 minutes a day! Subscribe to our Writing Tips and Exercises via Email
- You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!
- Subscribers get access to our archives with 800+ interactive exercises!
- You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!