Your money’s no good here

Today’s Bizarro, exploiting an ambiguity in pragmatics, use in discourse contexts:


(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

Your money’s no good here has a use as a pragmatic idiom, conventionally conveying that at this moment it’s of no use in the context because the services or goods it’s being offered for are being supplied for free, are complimentary, are “on the house”. But in the cartoon, the bartender is speaking literally, saying that the customer’s money is no good here because it’s not in fact legal tender.

To understand this, you need to recognize the customer as a (specific) cartoon character, not just any man in a bar: he’s (Rich) Uncle Pennybags, the symbol of the board game Monopoly.

Look back to another Bizarro, one I posted about on in 4/13/13 in “Manliness and money”, which featured “Donald Trump’s grocery list” on a refrigerator door with other money- or Trump-related symbols, including

the figure of Rich “Uncle” Pennybags (“the round old man in a top hat who serves as the mascot of the game Monopoly”, as Wikipedia puts it)

(If you don’t recognize Uncle Pennybags, you can’t understand the cartoon in #1.)

Since it’s Uncle Pennybags, the money he’s offering isn’t real money, but “Monopoly money”. From Wikipedia:

Monopoly money is a type of play money used in the board game Monopoly. It is different from most currencies, including the American currency or British currency upon which it is based, in that it is smaller, one-sided, and comes in different colors.

“Monopoly money” is also a derisive term used in multiple senses. The most common is by countries that have traditionally had monochromatic currency (such as the United States) to refer to countries that have colorful currency (such as Canada). This has been used in places such as the “Weird Al” Yankovic song Canadian Idiot.

It can also be used as a derisive term to refer to money not really being worth anything, or at least not being used as if it is worth anything. This has been used when large companies trade securities amongst various entities to create fraudulent profits, and when governments such as Burma issue special currencies to foreign aid organization that cannot be traded on the free market and are therefore not really worth anything.

Here’s Pennybags in an artwork by the graphic artist who works under the pseudonym Alec Monopoly:


The work, titled “Raining Monopoly Money” is from a series featuring Uncle Pennybags, under the name Mister Monopoly. It’s clearly a takeoff on the linguistic figure raining money, with a conventional visual figure as here:


I don’t know a thing about the history of the linguistic and visual figures here, and it would take us far afield from where we started in #1, but I would appreciate information about the history from someone with actual knowledge about this history.

(I’m also not following up on the play on the raining-money figures in the camp classic and dance, gay, and female anthem “It’s Raining Men” (link).)

On the artist of #2, from Wikipedia:

Alec Monopoly is the alias of a graffiti artist, originally from New York City. The artist has worked in the urban environments of New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Europe, Mexico and throughout Asia using varied materials (including stencils, spray paint, epoxies, varnishes and newspapers) to subversively depict various iconic pop culture characters. [Very much a Banksy-like figure.]

Monopoly is from New York, He moved to Los Angeles in 2006. He found working there was easier because of the many billboards in the city.

Monopoly is best known for his tuxedoed and top-hatted graffiti character of Monopoly Man, an idea originally inspired by the stockbroker Bernie Madoff. According to John Wellington Ennis writing for the Huffington Post, “In an era of billion dollar bailouts for banks that already own the country and moguls decrying regulation as un-American, the re-contextualization of the childhood symbol of success and wealth almost needed no explanation.” Monopoly also pastes up images of Jack Nicholson.

Again, there is a significant further connection that would take us even further afield — this time from the artist to the cutting-edge art magazine Juxtapoz (pronounced like juxtapose): Wikipedia page here, webpage here.


3 Responses to “Your money’s no good here”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I was under the impression that the (or a) common meaning of “Your money’s no good here” was “I don’t choose to serve you” (because “We don’t serve your kind” or because the person attempting to make the purchase is non grata for some more personal reason).

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      I see that this is yet another interpretation and is almost surely exemplified in real life. I haven’t experienced this refusal-of-service use personally, but I have certainly experienced the complimentary-service use, in bars and restaurants.

      It’s hard for me to understand the first panel of #1 as having the refusal-of-service use: if the bartender has just refused service to Monopoly Man (on what basis? what makes him a persona non grata?) in the first panel, why would he then insist, in the second panel, on being paid in real money ?

      • Robert Coren Says:

        I haven’t experienced it either, and I can’t cite an actual instance of it in real life or in fiction; all I can offer is a strong impression that I’ve heard or seen it used that way.

        As for its applicability to the cartoon at hand: Isn’t the whole point of the cartoon that the normally-expected meaning of the phrase (whatever it might be) is not what he’s actually saying, but rather that he means it literally? And in order to consider my version to be a plausible (mis)interpretation of what the bartender actually means, one need only suppose that he has some moral objection to rich and possibly exploitive tycoons — or that Monopoly Man has previously offended in some way (e.g., trying to buy him out).

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: