The Grammarphobia Blog

Money 101

Q: You’re cruel to us economists in your 2007 posting about “monies.” What would we do without “monies,” particularly “near monies,” which is by now part of the standard definition of M2. And how else can the IMF refer to the “monies” of member nations or the Bank for International Settlements refer to central-bank “monies.” In other words, what shall we call the various categories of money if not “monies”?

A. That entry about “monies” (as well as a later one in 2009) was obviously NOT aimed at economists, though it seems to us that they often use unnecessarily opaque language when communicating with lay people.

Of course “monies” is a legitimate word. As we note on our blog, it’s in standard dictionaries.

Obviously, as you point out, it has technical applications that aren’t germane to the layman. Our point was that plain old “money” should be used where possible.

Since you brought up near monies and M2, we’ll define a few terms here for any readers who aren’t economists or financial-news junkies:

M1. Cash in circulation plus assets that can easily be converted to cash (checking accounts, traveler’s checks, etc.).

Near monies. Highly liquid assets (like savings accounts and CDs) that are easily exchangeable for money, but that can’t be used to buy goods directly.

M2: Near monies plus M1.

As a reader of our blog, you can see that it’s strongly prejudiced in favor of plain English.

We understand, though, that bureaucrats speak a different dialect, one that they sometimes cannot avoid using.

That’s no reason the rest of us have to use it too. But thanks for keeping us on our toes.

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