Word of the Week: Marie [maˈʁiː]

Noun. A popular Viennese slang term for cash, similar to the English “bread” or “dough.” It was famously used in the title of the 2018 episode Her mit der Marie! (Hand Over the Cash!) of the long-running German-Swiss-Austrian police procedural Tatort, which led many of our neighbors to wonder just who this “Marie” is.

In fact, the term derives from the iconic Maria-Theresien-Taler, a silver bullion coin first struck in 1741, bearing the portrait of its namesake, Empress Maria Theresia. Due to its purity and stringent quality control, it quickly became a preferred currency for international trade, circulating far beyond Habsburg lands; alongside the Spanish Dólar (whose name also derives from “Taler”) its popularity made it synonymous with money in many parts of the world, even influencing a young United States to take the name for its own currency.

The coin continued as a standard currency long after Maria Theresia’s reign and is still punched out by the Austrian mint today – with the date frozen at 1780, the year of her death. With over 380 million minted since it was first introduced, the face of the Empress could be found in wide circulation within Africa and the Middle East well after WWII. Benito Mussolini even demanded (and received) the original casts from Austria to bankroll his conquest of Ethiopia, as the locals didn’t trust Italian money.

The British Empire also acknowledged its popularity by striking their own Maria-Theresia-Talers in 1935, minting 18 million pieces in Mumbai alone to support their colonial economies in Africa and East Asia; the coin remains protected under the British Forgery and Counterfeiting Act to this day.

So wherever you are, dear readers, Marie (or the lack of her) matters.  Which gives a whole new slant on the old vocative, “Cherchez la femme!”

No matter how well you speak German, the Word Of The Week will help you impress any Viennese! While learning German is not an easy task in general, learning the language in Austria can come to be twice as complicated.

Strongly linked to local cultural individualities, the slangs change and evolve in all cultures around the world, the words and phrases make sense only when one is familiar with their cultural context. The Word of the Week is here to help you understand those singularities and impress the locals with some real Viennese words and expressions.

The Word of the Week can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Spread the word!

Leave a Comment