moola prospects (?), or no

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Tue Aug 3 13:10:06 UTC 2010

Merely provisional notes on the chance that something here may help step towards the origin of moola, currently origin unknown, despite a 1937 antedating, four American Speech articles, and so on.

The 1937 writer and some of the other early adopters of moola (perhaps an earlier spelling than moolah) knew one another. Walter Winchell used it in several columns. Damon Runyon used it early on, and claimed he got it from Chuck Green, street jewelry salesman, "the Doorway Tiffany," apparently (?) not to be confused with the jazz tap dancer with the same name (1918-1997). Runyon was said  (in e.g. Life Magazine) to get slang from Green, but does anyone know the source of this claim for moola, other than (orally?)  to Mario Pei?

GNews gives a snippet that may be relevant. Someone care to provide a fuller text?

Pay-Per-View - New York Post - ProQuest Archiver - Apr 29, 2001
Moolah said the rickshaw pullermoolah moolah. The guy who used it originally in conversation was Chuck Green who fell dead a couple of months ago He was one ...

If he made the (doubtful?) claim that he got it from a rickshaw puller, is the location specified? The year?

An interdating between 1937 and OED/HDAS 1939 may appear in newspaperarchive. Someone care to check?

San Antonio Light - February 18, 1938, San Antonio, Texas
...dropped Olivia DeHaviland, star ofgold Is Where You Find Cosmopolitan film of the gold rush... ...Find Cosmopolitan film of the gold rush clays in California which plays at the midnight show... ...anyone that Is so much moola. A most amusing incident was when Bugs Baer was... ...y KIBBEE LAST DAY 'THE GOLDWYN FOLLIES" with CHARI.IK McCARTIIV MAJESTIC Starts SATURDAY HERE'S THE... ...LOCAL. AMATEUR ACTS ON 8CKKKNGold h You ram It" FIKST BAT.C0NIIC8...
Date: Friday, February 18, 1938 City: San Antonio State: Texas

I see there is a Winchell column on that page, but is moola in it? And also gold?

Next, I mention what some may dismiss as a long shot, on whatever size chance that it is relevant. There is a story in Windsor Magazine vol. 86 (1937) 611-519, "The Man Who Remembered," by Donald Shoubridge. In the world of GB snippets and interlibrary loan, I have a copy, without yet knowing the month it appeared, but, from the title page, presumably that was no later than November 1937, i.e., before Hellinger wrote of moola rolling in in December, 1937. (An antedating before the article would change matters.)

In our story, two men dig for gold. One has amnesia when he finds gold and recovers his memory during a mine collapse, only to discover while trapped that the other had stolen his woman; in the fight that follows a blow to the head brings amnesia back, and they are rescued. "And now there was gold, gold that could almost be chipped raw from the seam of quartz that carried it...'Gold and wealth!'"

And in what repeatedly-mentioned location did our story play out? Moola Valley.

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society -

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