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Old 11 July 2008, 03:46 PM
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Default "Ten-dollar word"

Comment: I'd like to know the origin of the phrase "ten dollar word". My
older brother (go figure) claims that it originated in the early 1900's
when it cost per letter to have anything printed in the New York Times; a
ten dollar word being a very long and expensive one. Sounds good to me
but I can find nothing online confirming this.
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  #2  
Old 14 July 2008, 04:03 AM
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When I was in elementary school in the 50's we played a math game called $10 Word. The letters were assigned values of 1 to 26. Our task was to select a word then insert operation signs (add, subtract, multiply, divide, exponent, fraction bar, parentheses, etc.) between the values to make a $10 word. There were, of course, other parameters like length, holiday-related, used in the story we're reading, the science or history lessson, whatever.

I am sure the expression predated the game (like Monoply) so it's at least that old.

Last edited by NobodyAtAll; 14 July 2008 at 04:06 AM. Reason: clarity
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  #3  
Old 30 September 2008, 04:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
Comment: I'd like to know the origin of the phrase "ten dollar word". My
older brother (go figure) claims that it originated in the early 1900's
when it cost per letter to have anything printed in the New York Times; a
ten dollar word being a very long and expensive one. Sounds good to me
but I can find nothing online confirming this.
I have a lot of trouble imagining anyone paying $10 for anything to be printed in the NY Times in 1900.
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  #4  
Old 30 September 2008, 05:14 AM
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Especially for a single word. Even pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis which is English's longest word (according to http://www.hm2k.com/posts/supercalif...expialidocious
comes out to 22 cents per letter. That seems a bit steep for 1900.

ETA: Wikianswers has another word here: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Whats_the_worlds_longest_word
At 48,561 letters it's only .021 cents per letter. The decimal is not misplaced there.

Last edited by Arriah; 30 September 2008 at 05:22 AM.
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  #5  
Old 30 September 2008, 06:27 AM
RoseyDawn
 
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Instead of something in a paper, might it have been a very long word in a telegram?
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  #6  
Old 30 September 2008, 07:50 AM
covel
 
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Fred and his wife Edna went to the state fair every year. Every year Fred would say, "Edna, I'd like to ride in that there airplane." And every year Edna would say, "I know Fred, but that airplane ride costs ten dollars, and ten dollars is ten dollars."

One year Fred and Edna went to the fair and Fred said, "Edna, I'm 71 years old. If I don't ride that airplane this year I may never get another chance." Edna replied, "Fred that there airplane ride costs ten dollars, and ten dollars is ten dollars."

The pilot overheard them and said, "Folks, I'll make you a deal. I'll take you both up for a ride. If you can stay quiet for the entire ride and not say one word, I won't charge you, but if you say one word it's ten dollars."

Fred and Edna agreed and up they go. The pilot does all kinds of twists and turns, rolls and dives, but not a word is heard. He does all his tricks over again, but still not a word.

They land and the pilot turns to Fred, "By golly, I did everything I could think of to get you to yell out, but you didn't."

Fred replied, "Well, I was going to say something when Edna fell out of the plane, but ten dollars is ten dollars."

Ok maybe not the origin, but..........
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  #7  
Old 30 September 2008, 01:09 PM
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When I was in high school, I was talking to some of my friends about why I was going to a college an hour and a half away rather than to one of the much closer colleges. I said that among other things, I wanted to have a little independence.

One of my friends rolled her eyes, and said the following (note she couldn't even get the expression right). "You and your 10 cent college words."

I kind of stood there for a minute stumped and said, "what word is that?"

She snorted indignantly and said, "independence, duh."

From that point on, I made a concerted effort to use words around her like recalcitrant, anathema, idyllic, pendantic...
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  #8  
Old 30 September 2008, 01:39 PM
Mycroft Mycroft is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RoseyDawn View Post
Instead of something in a paper, might it have been a very long word in a telegram?
Definately in the UK telegrams were charged per word. (I believe from an old anecdote that the same is true in the US). Come to think of it, Newspaper advertisements are also charged per word.

I assume that the OP refers to a broadcast game show with prizes awarded for the longest/most obscure word, but there is also a UL/joke about how lawyers charge for writing a letter; the more confusing words/phrases (especially latin) costing more
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  #9  
Old 01 October 2008, 02:37 AM
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Glasses

I always understood this refered to telegrams, but the line used to be 50 cent word. At least, that is what my Father always said. I guess inflation hits everything.
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  #10  
Old 01 October 2008, 03:59 AM
DaGuyWitBluGlasses DaGuyWitBluGlasses is offline
 
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Etymonline.com
O.E. word "speech, talk, utterance, word,"

I think "word" meaning brief statement is used throughout the modern english era. Thogh etymonline doesn't specify that definition.

So a 10 dollar word in the NY times could mean a 10 dollar advertisement not an individual word. (And now a word from our sponsors)

Inflation from 1913 to 2006 is 1929%
http://inflationdata.com/inflation/Inflation_Rate/Long_Term_Inflation.asp

So that would be 202.9 dollars today by that.
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  #11  
Old 01 October 2008, 06:24 AM
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Judge

In Quebec, I was told I was using a thousand dollar word (mot de milles dollars) when I called a bunch of troublesome teens «les mécréants».

I invented my own likely source of the expression years before ($10 word, that is) as being "the cost of a fine that you would pay in court for saying a word that made the judge feel that you were talking down to him or her."

Absolutely no basis in truth, but it fit my world.
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  #12  
Old 01 October 2008, 07:19 PM
PointySextant
 
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I'm waiting for a response from my mother right now, but I think I have tracked down a Jstor article that mentions the phrase at an early stage in the mid 40's. It comes up in the beginning but I'll look through the bulk when/if I get it.

http://www.jstor.org/pss/486802
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  #13  
Old 01 October 2008, 09:33 PM
PointySextant
 
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I've searched EBSCO and JSTOR and the only article I can find that references it directly cites it as being relatively new in Chicago in 1942, and as being commonly held to have been produced by quiz shows and the like. One of the test subjects said he heard it in grade school, but considering the time, I think it was probably not around at the beginning of the 20'th century in terms of common usage, in so far as I can prove it's existence in common parlance. I can e-mail the article, but I'm uneasy about posting a JSTOR article.
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  #14  
Old 14 November 2016, 01:04 AM
Kife33 Kife33 is offline
 
 
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Default The $10 word

is from a mail order service that was around at the turn of the century. It was designed to help you build your vocabulary, and the words you received were dependant on the amount of money you mailed in. $.50, $1, $5, $10 and so on. My source was one of the brief episodes of "The rest of the story" by Paul Harvey. I remember hearing him explain it way back in the early 80's.
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