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Wooden nickel

Posted by R. Berg on June 16, 2001

In Reply to: Wooden nickel posted by Jennifer Kolb on June 16, 2001

: : : : What does the phrase "don't take any wooden nickels" come from?

: : : : Thanks for your help.

: : : The Dict. of Amer. Slang calls it "a c1920 fad phrase," but it lasted later than that, at least into the 1950s, and probably started earlier. It means "Take care of yourself"; literally, don't accept counterfeit money. A real nickel is worth 5 cents; a wooden nickel is worth nothing.

: Here's the thing...does it have anything to do with the "wild west"?? I was told that it does, and I'm not even sure what that means.
: I was under the impression that the expression originated from when the Americans took advantage of the Indians; trading wooden nickels.

That sounds doubtful. It would need some research to back it up. Unscrupulous peddlers sold carved wooden nutmegs in New England--maybe part of the story arises from that.