Discover the surprising origins and meanings behind phrases like “Cash Cow,” “Bring Home The Bacon,” “Gravy Train,” and more. Ready to delve into the contemporary relevance of these phrases in the realm of personal finance?
Over time, our monetary systems have evolved from using livestock as currency to relying on modern forms like debit and Credit Cards, as well as UPI. Nevertheless, the echoes of these early practices continue to shape our language and culture, manifesting in a variety of money-related expressions. From classics like ‘bringing home the bacon’ to the more whimsical ‘squirreling away’ savings, these idioms offer intriguing glimpses into our complex relationship with money.
Join us as we delve into the funny world of financial expressions, exploring their meanings, and the fascinating origin stories of how they became synonymous with money.
The term, originating from the consistent and good revenue provided by a dairy cow, means exactly that- a source of steady, reliable, and possibly, high income. It is sometimes, also used to denote the highest profit-generating product in a business.
Use Case 1: Amongst all its products, the iPhone is Apple’s cash cow.
Use Case 2: In the context of personal finance, maintaining a diversified investment portfolio can be seen as having multiple cash cow assets, which can generate a stable income stream over time, providing financial security and opportunities for growth.
You might have watched Chip ‘n Dale stealing food from Donald Duck and stashing it in hollow trees to eat during their hibernation period. This behaviour is found not only in chipmunks, but in squirrels too. Keeping this in mind, it is easy to understand how the phrase “squirrel away” came about, considering that it means to save money for the future.
Use Case 1: In five years, she had managed to squirrel away a small fortune in her Savings Account.
Use Case 2: SIPs (Systematic Investment Plans) enable you to squirrel away money for long-term goals like buying a house, funding your child’s education, or achieving financial independence.
Additional Reading: How To Pick A Savings Account Best Suited For You
Bring Home The Bacon
It means to earn money to support your family. We are not sure of how this phrase originated. A local legend in Essex, England, is that a side of bacon was offered as a reward to men who could swear that they had not gotten into an argument with their wives, for an entire year. There is also a belief that this phrase could have originated from a popular contest in country fairs, involving chasing pigs, coated in grease. Anybody who managed to catch one of these slippery animals got to keep it and take it home.
Use Case: Investing in assets such as stocks, mutual funds, bonds, or fixed deposits can make your money work for you and bring home the bacon through returns on investments.
This is where the birds come in! A nest egg is an accumulated sum of money, which is set aside, usually to be used as a retirement fund. Another origin story from the barnyard, this phrase came about from the practice of placing an egg, which could be real or fake, in chicken coops, to get hens to lay more eggs. More eggs naturally meant more money to be made, which could be taken to mean more potential savings.
Use Case: Contributing to the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) or Public Provident Fund (PPF) during your employment can help you build a nest egg to ensure financial security during your retirement years.
Additional Reading: Top Seven Simple Tips For Early Retirement
There are several other expressions, apart from the animal-themed ones above, that, at first glance, you might not assume to be money-related. Some of these include:
An Arm And A Leg
Something which is exorbitantly expensive or comes at a high price is said to cost an arm and a leg. This phrase has several plausible origins. It may have been a combination of two other phrases, namely, “if it costs a leg” (fierce determination to achieve something) and “give up my right arm” (ready to sacrifice something important). It could also have originated from the fact that full-body portraits, depicting the subject’s arms and legs, were priced higher than portraits that depicted the subject only from the shoulders and above. Another interesting origin story is from 17th-century Irish halfpenny coins. These coins were designed by Sir Thomas Armstrong and Colonel George Legge. The coins soon started being referred to by the abbreviations of their names and anything costing a halfpenny was said to “cost an arm or a leg.” Another, although very tragic, origin story is from after World War II. The soldiers, many of whom had lost their limbs during the fighting, had paid for the war, with “an arm and a leg.” Thus, the phrase came to mean paying a high price.
Use Case: People with a high Credit Score can get Loans at lower interest rates which helps them avoid having to pay an arm and a leg while repaying the debt.
A gravy train is used to refer to a means of acquiring high financial gains without considerable effort. This phrase is said to have been coined by railroad workers in the 1920s, referring to a short amount of work that was easy to do, yet paid well. In the 1970s, truck drivers who only took on high-paying runs were called gravy haulers.
Use Case: Property owners who availed a low-interest Home Loan at the right time are finding themselves on a gravy train right now with the current soar in property values.
Pass The Hat Around
During a street performance, you might have noticed an upturned hat, or a small container being passed around in the audience for people to put money in. Probably originating from such instances, with an almost similar connotation, the phrase “pass the hat around” means to ask for a contribution of any kind, usually monetary, from a group of people.
Use Case: Managing your personal finance effectively requires more than just budgeting; it involves a holistic approach. Think of it as needing to pass the hat around various financial strategies, such as saving, investing, and debt management, to achieve your financial goals.
A person unwilling to part with money and usually behaving in a miserly manner can be called tight-fisted. This phrase simply originates from the act of clenching one’s money tightly in their fist to avoid losing it.
Use Case: Being tight-fisted when it comes to spending on non-essential items allows you to channel more of your income into savings and investments.
Additional reading: How To Throw A New Year Party If You’re A Cheapskate
How many of these managed to surprise you with their meanings and possible origin stories? Now that you’re in the know, how about exploring the surprising perks and rewards of lifetime-free Credit Cards or some low-interest Personal Loans?