Money laundering
Posted: 27 December 2007 06:51 AM   [ Ignore ]
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We did have a thread on this before in which the Watergate era was found to be the earliest recorded appearance of the phrase. (OED first cite is still 1974, “1974 N.Y. Times 9 July 27/1 Nixon has publicly said he asked his top White House aides..to intervene in a Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry into ‘*money-laundering’ operations in Mexico City.”

Etymology Online however has an unsubstantiated refernce to 1961.

“criminal banking sense first recorded 1961, from notion of making dirty money seem clean; brought to widespread use during Watergate scandal, 1973”

Has anybody further information on this?

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Posted: 27 December 2007 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I don’t know where the 1961 citation comes from.

But there is this from the San Francisco Call-Bulletin of 3 June 1935:

There is not a hot money passer in America who will “wash” this money exchanging it for “cool” currency--unless it is offered him at such a tremendous discount that he can afford to hold it for years, if necessary, before attempting to pass it.

So the metaphor has been around since the 1930s, even if the exact term has not.

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Posted: 27 December 2007 07:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Seems to explode on the scene at NewsPaperArchive: May 12, 1973.

Newsday said that after federal investigators traced the $100,000 contribution through the Mexican “money
laundering” process and back to Gulf Resources, Allen claimed the money was his own personal campaign contribution.

Nothing before this as far as I can see.

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Posted: 27 December 2007 10:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Wikipedia cites one Jeffrey Robinson who claims that, “It was Britain’s Guardian newspaper that coined the term, referring to the process as “laundering."[2]

The footnote [2] refers to Robinson’s books on the subject.

seems a bit fetched to me, but ...

[edit: fixed link--dw]

[ Edited: 27 December 2007 10:51 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 28 December 2007 04:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The first mention in the (London) Guardian archive of the concept is from the issue of Thursday April 19 1973 p14, in a second leader article (sorry, can’t remember the Leftpondian for “leader” - editorial opinion piece, anyway), about the Watergate affair:

Even the facts that have already emerged – suitcases stuffed with 200,000 dollars of Republican campaign funds; money being “laundered” in Mexico – promise better melodrama than most Hollywood films.

which does seem to beat the first US references, but I can’t believe the Guardian made the phrase up on its own, and the “scare” quotes around the expression, together with the lack of explanation, suggest it was a phrase first used by someone else that the newspaper didn’t like and was handling with tongs.

The (London) Times, FWIW, doesn’t mention the concept until Friday, Feb 22, 1974; pg. 8; Issue 59021; col D:

Mr Jacobsen is a Texan businessman who was allegedly involved in “laundering” money.

[ Edited: 28 December 2007 04:57 PM by Zythophile ]
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Posted: 29 December 2007 04:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Last time this came up I mentioned a Super Chicken episode that had a Chinese Laundry that laundered money for crooks but had nothing to go on but my memory and a rough date of 1970±1 year.  The web has come a long way since then.  This episode dates to Dec 5, 1967.

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Posted: 29 December 2007 07:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Very impressive—what a world we live in!  I note that besides the very suggestive “laundering” (which seems to, but does not necessarily, imply prior use of the idiom), the episode includes two uses of “Whatever!” in exactly its current sense.  Have we had a thread on that?

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Posted: 29 December 2007 08:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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languagehat - 29 December 2007 07:05 AM

Very impressive—what a world we live in!  I note that besides the very suggestive “laundering” (which seems to, but does not necessarily, imply prior use of the idiom), the episode includes two uses of “Whatever!” in exactly its current sense.  Have we had a thread on that?

Do you know, I don’t think we have. I certainly can’t recall one and Google comes up empty. (Just wait, Dr T is sure to find one now I’ve said that).

I had no idea that the word was already being used in the modern sense by the 60s. I thought it originated with Valley Talk, which I’ve always associated with the 80s.

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Posted: 29 December 2007 06:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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It’s worth noting that in that cartoon, the word “laundering” occurs only in this joke:
Announcer: “And the specialty of his Chinese hand laundry?”
The Laundry Man: “It not laundering Chinese hands, buster!”
Announcer: “No, it is washing the fingerprints off stolen money.”

In short, although the image of “laundering money” occurs in the cartoon, the phrase does not (nor “money laundering”, “laundered money”, etc.) As LH says (more or less), this is suggestive of the possible pre-1973 existence of the phrase, but not direct evidence of it.

Regarding “whatever”, a 2001 draft addition to the online OED2 records this usage: ”int. colloq. (orig. U.S.). Usually as a response, suggesting the speaker’s reluctance to engage or argue, and hence often implying passive acceptance or tacit acquiescence; also used more pointedly to express indifference, indecision, impatience, scepticism, etc.: ‘as you wish’; ‘if you say so’; ‘it makes no difference to me’; ‘have it your own way’; ‘fine’.” The first citation given is from a 1973 DoD document apparently intended to acquaint returning POWs with changes that had taken place in the US (including recent slang) while they were gone: ”Whatever, equivalent to ‘that’s what I meant’. Usually implies boredom with topic or lack of concern for a precise definition of meaning.” Obviously if it was in a document like that in 1973, it had some currency earlier, but the use in the Super Chicken cartoon is a nice antedate.

[ Edited: 30 December 2007 12:04 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 30 December 2007 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I would dearly love to see Super Chicken referenced in the august OED.  (I know they already have cites from comics, but somehow Super Chicken is particularly undignified.)

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Posted: 30 December 2007 08:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I note incidentally that the metaphor “money laundering” was not brilliantly generated out of thin air; unsurprisingly, it followed the earlier literal use of the expression.

Here is a picture of a US Treasury money laundering machine in a book from 1917:

http://books.google.com/books?id=uPFLAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA145&dq="money+laundering"+date:1900-1920&lr=&as_brr=1

[ Edited: 30 December 2007 08:49 PM by D Wilson ]
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