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Money for old rope and slush funds

Posted by James Briggs on July 10, 2000

In Reply to: Money for old rope posted by Bruce Kahl on July 09, 2000

: : In my latest crossword puzzle (and IF I unscrambled the anagram properly) I found "money for old rope" as a metaphor for easy profits. Is this a Britishism? Never heard it in the States. Origin?

: Pasted from a web site. Yes, UK:

: Several hundred years ago, the term 'Money for old rope' used to mean literally that: good cash paid for rope which is not quite as young as it seems. Or put another way, rope which is as old as the hills, cunningly disguised as something else. In the Middle Ages, the rope trade was big business; rope was a fact of life and it was there to stay. You needed rope for everything: houses, ships, carts, clothes and tying up witches so they could be reliably dunked in the village pond. Rope was where it was at and demand for rope based products was booming.

Rope: It's money for old rope suggests that a task or problem can be executed with great ease, without much effort. This is another with a nautical background. The story goes that sailors in port, and short of cash, would go into the hold of their ships and dig out lengths of old rope which they would sell to passers by - not much effort for a certain reward. See also slush fund.

Slush fund: A slush fund is a fund of money that is separate and secret from other funds. Slush seems a funny word in these circumstances until it's realised that the original source of such funds was the surplus fat or grease from fried salt pork, the standard food on 19th century ships. The slush was usually sold in port and the money raised used to buy little extras and luxuries for the crew. In 1866 the US Congress had applied the term to a contingency fund it had set up from one of its operating budgets. From that time the expression took on its current meaning.