Is "Cash Money" a Regional Expression?

Is cash money a regional expression? I heard it after moving to Reno and thought it might be a casino thing, but then I heard it on the Planet Money podcast.

Mignon Fogarty
5-minute read
Episode #405

If you were going to pay a debt in cash instead of barter, you'd say, "He paid me in "cash money."

People were encouraged to make the "kitchen Gardens" as pledge of patriotism during times of war and to tide us through the hard times when "cash money" was hard to come by.


We didn't have much "cash money" but always "made do." . . . One sign I remember seeing on a store front said, "In God we trust, all others pay cash."

Cash Money Is Popular with Rappers

If the phrase cash money was popularized in the 1930s and 1940s during the Depression and caught on and stuck most in the South, why did so many people seem to think it came from rap culture? Because there’s a huge rap record label called Cash Money Records that represents artists including Birdman, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne.

Cash Money May Be Popular with People Who Use English as a Second Language

It also seems that the phrase cash money is used by some people who speak English as a second language. Again, I don’t have enough respondents to say for sure, but it seems that cash money may be used in Indonesia, Morocco, Bangladesh, and Ghana. One person seemed to have met a lot of people who use the phrase. She wrote, “When I worked in banking in the 1980s, it was a common phrase used by Asian immigrants in the Portland, Oregon area.” A few commenters from Australia and the UK said they had never heard it.

Cash Money Is Popular on Pawn Stars

Finally, a couple of people mentioned that they hear the phrase cash money on the TV show Pawn Stars, so that is probably helping popularize it again too. 

Why had I never heard the phrase cash money before? I guess it’s because I’m a just-young-enough West Coast city girl who doesn’t listen to rap music or watch a lot of TV. How the phrase is distributed is an interesting peek into the way the popularity of words and phrases can rise and fall over the years and gain a foothold in disparate cultures that aren’t even aware of each other’s words and phrases. It’s nice when you can point to just one thing that influences how words are used, but when the story is more complex, that’s interesting too.

I’m Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl. Please remember to check out my card game, Peeve Wars, at FundAnything.com/peevewars. You have only a few days left.




About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.

You May Also Like...