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Cold hard cash

Posted by Smokey Stover on March 19, 2008 at 19:23:

In Reply to: Cold hard cash posted by Sherrie Quinton on March 19, 2008 at 12:08:

: What is the origin of the phrase "cold hard cash"?

In banking or financial terms, "cash" means hard money, metal. It was easily stretched, when the time came, to include bank-notes redeemable in specie, that is, in gold or silver. Such bank-notes used to be common in the U.S., but are no longer issued and no longer redeemable. But their existence meant that "hard cash" could be used to rule out anything printed on paper, including bank-notes. "Cold, hard cash" is a modern expression incorporating the "cold" probably to represent a sort of cynicism in the minds (or coldness in the hearts) of whoever was insistent on "hard cash."

Nowadays the expression has come to mean nothing more than money in some palpable form, the cynical form of the wording giving emphasis to the liquidity of the financial element, if there is much of it. It is presumably extraordinay for a substantial financial transaction, or a store of money, to use actual money rather than just a letter of credit or computerized record or a credit card.