The origin of the $ sign has several fol kloric stories attached. One says that Thomas Jefferson invented it, perhaps as a sort of monogram for TS. Jefferson was the first to use the symbol in relation to the U.S. dollar, but this story is fanciful. Another says that originally it was U superimposed over an S, for U.S. of course. Eventually the base of the U eroded due to poor printing technology, leaving an S with two lines through it. Another says that it is a variant of a figure eight that appeared on the Spanish Peso, standing for the pieces of eight. This last is close to the truth, but not quite there.

The Spanish royal family used on its escutcheon, two pillars (representing the Pillars of Hercules in Gibraltar and Morocco) crossed by an unfurled banner reading "Plus Ultra." This symbol appeared on the Peso, and looked much like the modern $ sign. It was adopted as a symbol for the Peso in the American colonies, and was transferred to the dollar.

The U.S. was the first nation to adopt an official currency named the dollar. In 1797, the Bank of England began minting "dollar" coins as bank-issued currency. Other nations that have adopted the name dollar for their currency have done so in emulation of either the U.S. or this short-lived Bank of England practice.

"Word and Phrase Origins" are copyrighted by David Wilton

Weber v. Canada (Minister of National Revenue)

Docket: ITA-6261-99

A Calgary inventor has failed in his inventive argument that his tax bill instructed him to pay in pesos rather than dollars.

In 1996, James Weber, 48, who holds patents on several oilfield tools, got a bill from Revenue Canada telling him he owed $110,000 in income tax. But Weber noticed the notice showed the dollar sign with just one line through it instead of two - a symbol he said denotes a Colombian peso. So down he trotted to pay his taxes with 110,650 pesos - worth about $75 Cdn.

The government didn't buy his reasoning and last August seized his BMW motorbike, helmet, jacket and pants. Weber fought back by filing 50 documents in Federal Court to back up his claim - including banking and other dictionaries, and the British North America Act.

However, on Tuesday the Federal Court ruled against him, noting one of the dictionaries he submitted as evidence "illustrates the Canadian dollar sign also to be a one-bar dollar sign."

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