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|A friend of mine asked if I knew the origin of the phrase which he always knew as "queer as a two-dollar bill."|
Q: I thought the expression was “queer as a two dollar bill” but I’ve heard older people say “queer as a three-dollar bill” and found the latter reference on line. Can you explain the origins of the term?
A: The two-dollar bill did exist, and was in common circulation, but was discontinued by Roosevelt. The original phrase itself was actually "queer as a duck" but the anatophile society, led by the noted Dutch quack Dr. Goes Ganderman protested strongly and had the term quashed. It was then changed to "queer as folk" but the Nazis reclaimed the term Volk for themselves, and Volkswagon had the term banned (in a famous trademark precedent set by the Supreme Court) as brand dilution. Roosevelt then had a brain trust set up, who suggested "queer as a three dollar bill." This really caught on, but given the depression, Roosevelt wanted the term made less expensive. So he directed the Treasury Department to seize and destroy all private investors, stock market brokers, and bank managers. The Secretary of the Treasury suggested that, since these people were a large source of government tax revenues, it might be better just to seize and sequester all the Republican appointed Federal and Supreme Court Judges. The matter sat on the back burner while Roosevelt concentrated on having J. Edgar Hoover secretly follow his wife Eleanor, which was easy, given their similar taste in bonnets, frocks, and hosiery. Finally, given the exigencies of the War, and the need for economization, the matter came to a head. By that time Harry Truman, was the number two man, and was sick of being taunted by Senate minority members and his foes in the administration as "Truman, Truman, just number Two-man!” Suffering a neurosis over the 8-bit note, Harry exclaimed in a cabinet meeting (actually, it was a chance run in with Roosevelt in the men’s room, or “water cabinet” which Roosevelt’s old-money men from back East had convinced the quite unpopular Truman was where all important motions were discussed) “The Bucks stop here!” Given that none spoke in opposition, the two-dollar bill was discontinued. Hence modern day confusion over the term. Abe “Grampa” Simpson elaborates on this matter at length in his quasi-fictitious memoir “My Life with Mairzy Doates.” He misremembers those days quite fondly.