Myth Trivia: Dollar signs, the Harlem Globetrotters and the Grinch

Myth Trivia: Dollar signs, the Harlem Globetrotters and the Grinch

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CHARLOTTE, N.C., June 24, 2015 — Words, symbols and basketball are featured in today’s venture into useless information.

1. Creation of the word “Grinch”: Every child in America knows the Grinch stole Christmas. The started to fall in love with that story in 1957, when Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, related the tale of the grumpy old villain as only he could.

Actually Rudyard Kipling, the noted Victorian author and poet, used a variation of the term in “The Lament of the Border Cattle Thief,” which dates to 1897:

“It’s woe to bend the stubborn back
Above the grinching quern,
It’s woe to hear the leg bar clack
And jingle when I turn!”

The “Oxford English Dictionary” says that “grinch” in this context means “to make a harsh grating noise.”

That derivation is related to the French word “grincheux,” which is said to translate as “a cranky person.”

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this story however, came about in 1966 when “The Grinch who Stole Christmas” became an animated television adaptation. The narrator for that particular program, as well as the voice of the Grinch, was none other than the Frankenstein’s monster himself, Boris Karloff.

Could there have been a better choice?

2. Theories about the $ Sign: We all know what the dollar sign means, and we also know that you can never have too many of them. But where did it begin?

One theory is that King Ferdinand of Spain reformed his currency after Columbus discovered America and Gibraltar was added to his national holdings. Gibraltar, nicknamed the “Pillars of Hercules,” became a symbol of Spain’s economic strength which represented the “end of the known world.” The two pillars meant that two lines were drawn through the Spanish “S,” which gave birth to the dollar sign. Or so they believe.

A more likely explanation however is derived from Spanish pesos. At one time, pesos were the international currency of trade, which meant that the word “peso” had to be written over and over to designate specific amounts of money for transactions.

To save ink and shorten the process, merchants began using the simple letter “P” for “peso.” Plural amounts became “Ps.” Over time, the symbol changed as the “P” was written on top of the “S,” and by 1770 the idea caught on. Later the loop in the “P” was dropped and, voila, we had the $ or S with a single line through it that we use today.

Therefore, our dollar sign is really a peso sign.

By the way, more than 20 countries in the world today use their own version of the “dollar” as their national currency. Perhaps more interesting is that four countries in South America—Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Columbia—all use the peso for their currency but continue to use “$” to designate their money. Portugal also uses the dollar sign, or peso sign, but its means of exchange is the “escudo.”

3. Who are the Harlem Globetrotters?: To begin, the Harlem Globetrotters’ history starts in Chicago, not Harlem. Today their headquarters is located in downtown Phoenix. So how did they become the “Harlem Globetrotters”?

The second part of the name “Globetrotters” is far more accurate than the first since the team has performed in 120 countries since its inception in 1927. Oddly enough, it was not until 1968 that the so-called “Harlem Globetrotters” ever played a game in the city that bore their name.

“Sweet Georgia Brown,” as whistled by Brother Bones, has been the team’s signature song since it was founded in the 1920s on the south side of Chicago, where most of the original team grew up. Almost all of the players attended Wendell Phillips High School when the team was first formed.

Within two years, Abe Saperstein became involved, though the degree of his participation is unclear. Saperstein was traveling through the Midwest at the time with his own basketball team, the “New York Harlem Globe Trotters.” Saperstein used “Harlem” because it was regarded as the center of African-American culture at that time. His marketing theory was that a team from another place would provide an element of mystique that would appeal to patrons attending the games.

Though often billed as “Abe Saperstein’s Harlem Globetrotters,” there was a love-hate relationship in the complexities of running the team during its rise to popularity. Reportedly Abe paid his players poorly, and, fearing he would lose much of his drawing power, he was a major force in attempting to keep the NBA from integrating.

The Globetrotters added a mascot in 1993 who is justifiably known as “Globie.”

From a historical perspective however, it is fascinating to note that the Harlem Globetrotters played in more than 80 countries, including East Germany and Russia before they ever performed in Harlem.

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News. Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod.

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Bob Taylor
Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club ( and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.