Money in Canada
Canada uses a decimal-based monetary system. Our basic unit of currency is called the dollar, but it is a Canadian dollar (designated CAD) as opposed to the American dollar (USD) that is frequently thought of as an international standard for money.
There are 100 cents in a dollar. Canada used to have a copper-coloured coined called a penny, which was worth one cent. This coin got really expensive to mint, and so was withdrawn from circulation in 2013. Now if you shop in Canada, your bill gets rounded up or down to the nearest five cents when you pay cash.
Have you ever heard the expression, “queer as a two-dollar bill”? Well, in Canada we used to have a $2 bill! As with our $1 bill, it got expensive to print the notes, and the bills were replaced with coins in 1996. So if you come to Canada and carry a bit of cash around, you are likely to find nickels (5 cents) and dimes (10 cents,) quarters (25 cents,) and $1 and $2 coins in your change!
A Rhyming Challenge
Last June, some fellow writers proposed a writing challenge in which every day participants would create a post that featured a subject whose name rhymed with the word, “June.” I thought it would be fun to share one of those posts with you here today, as it touches on the naming of Canadian currency.
The rhyming word I’ve chosen for today is “doubloon,” which comes from the Spanish doblón. The word means “double,” which I thought was very appropriate for the second rhyming word, on the second day of this June challenge.
A doubloon is historically a gold coin minted either in Spain or one of the Spanish colonies. You can see an example of one such coin above. The excelente bearing the double portrait of Ferdinand and Isabella may have been the first coin referred to as a doubloon. Doubloons are among the most infamous treasure coins, owing to stories of sunken ships and buried pirate treasure in the Caribbean.
When Canada introduced its $2 coin in the late 1990s, “doubloonie” was among the suggested nicknames for the coin. The $1 coin is known as a “loonie,” for the loon on its reverse side. So a coin worth two loonies was a “double loonie.”
The name would have been both a portmanteau, and a play on words that referenced the older Spanish coins. Instead, the Canadian public seemed to relate better to the name “toonie,” a portmanteau of “two” + “loonie.” And that name is so firmly entrenched in Canadian English now, that the Royal Canadian Mint has actually secured the rights to the expression!
Note: I originally published a shorter version of this article on the now defunct site, Bubblews, in June 2015