22

I'm not sure if it's off topic or not, so apologies if it's irrelevant. Can anyone explain the meaning of a specific slang phrase, "money is like mush not not"? I keep seeing it in random places but couldn't find an explanation for it in almighty Google.

  • 3
    If you're not sure if it's off topic, why not take the site tour first? You could also look at the Help Center for a lot more info. As it is, your question is unanswerable (and thus off topic) without more context. – Roger Sinasohn Jul 10 '17 at 22:39
  • 8
    @Anon Can you link to some examples, quoting a sentence or a paragraph each time, and citing the sources? – Lawrence Jul 10 '17 at 22:51
  • not not is a double negative, so it means 'money is like mush'. or you can think of 'not not' as a double-sided question 'not. (definite), not? (question)', and so it is a figurative speech statement – JMP Jul 11 '17 at 7:10
  • 5
    @RogerSinasohn: "As it is, your question is unanswerable (and thus off topic) without more context." I disagree. The OP has no way to know whether someone can come up with a great answer before asking the question. The question itself is crystal clear ("What does XYZ mean"). It concerns a english slang term (which I never heard or read - I can only assume that some people actually did use it, or the OP would not have stumbled across it). A non-english speaker might not know enough about the language to do a research like StoneyB did in their answer. – AnoE Jul 11 '17 at 16:27
  • 2
    @RogerSinasohn, from english.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic, "Word choice and usage" and maybe "Dialect differences" would be fitting. It mentions off-topic "The meaning of words, or synonyms for words, unless you have first looked them up in a dictionary or thesaurus.", but the OP did check "almighty Google" and nothing came up (I didn't check myself, but I'd assume this sentence does not come up in the OALD either :) ). – AnoE Jul 11 '17 at 16:53
60

This is not standard Anglo English, even of a slang variety. I find it only in posts from SE Asia (Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong) where it appears to be the sort of catchphrase that merchandisers put on t-shirts and knick-knacks. Its full form is

Money is like mush not not good kcept it espread.

A witty blog called Talk Shirty to Me posts a photograph of a storefront with a dress bearing this phrase and explains the phrase as a quote from Francis Bacon, translated into the local (?Malaysian?) version of English:

Money is like muck — not good except it be spread. —‘Of Seditions and Troubles’

Bacon is speaking of the manure of farm animals, which was in his day regarded as the most effective fertilizer for crops; in his Apothegmes he attributed the thought to his friend, Jeremy Bettenham, Reader at Gray's Inn:

Mr. Bettenham vsed to say; That Riches were like Mucke: When it lay, vpon an heape, it gaue but a stench, and ill odour; but when it was spread vpon the ground, then it was cause of much fruit.


There is considerable cogency to user hobbs’ comment that I don't think it was “translated” so much as ”incompetently transcribed“, likely by someone who doesn't read or write any variety of English; and this is supported by user elmer007’s observation that is like is realized as “islke” on this dress. On the other hand, the Talk Shirty to Me blogger observes that not not may be an intensive reduplication characteristic of some languages. Whatever the process, we seem to be dealing with a ‘magical’ use of English rather than a conventional utterance like the Bacon/Bettenham originals.

  • 12
    A line in the Musical Comedy, "Hello Dolly" modernizes Bacon's proverb(if he indeed conceived it). Dolly Levi: Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It's not worth a thing unless it's spread around, encouraging young things to grow. – Tom22 Jul 10 '17 at 23:39
  • 17
    @Tom He did not conceive it. In Apothegmes he attributed it to his friend, Jeremy Bettenham, Reader at Gray's Inn: "Mr. Bettenham vsed to say; That Riches were like Mucke: When it lay, vpon an heape, it gaue but a stench, and ill odour; but when it was spread vpon the ground, then it was cause of much fruit." – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 10 '17 at 23:49
  • 15
    I don't think it was "translated" so much as "incompetently transcribed", likely by someone who doesn't read or write any variety of English. Mistakes like losing place, doubling words, moving spaces, and substituting similar words or letters follow naturally when the person doing the copying doesn't have any sense of the meaning. "kcept" and "espread" don't show any evidence of being words in any dialect. – hobbs Jul 11 '17 at 8:52
  • 3
    I suspect that if this one hasn't yet made it to Engrish.com, it will soon... – A C Jul 11 '17 at 16:22
  • "islke" islke the referenced photograph – elmer007 Jul 11 '17 at 17:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.