Slang terms for new banknotes is a work in progress

“Can you give me a couple of monos for aFigueres?”

“Or better yet, got any plasticos?”

Leave it to Costa Ricans to create short names for the currency. The old 5,000-colon note was atucán because of the bird image it carried. The old 100-colon bill still lives on in the name of the daily newspaper that makes El Diario Extra look like staid The New York Times. A teja is a roof tile, and a 1941 version of the bill was red on the reverse like the clay tile, so the name stuck and was even applied to the 100-colon coin.

With a new issue of banknotes by the Banco Central, some of the slang terms still are up in the air. Figueres is gaining popularity for the 10,000-colon note that bears the image of the winner of the 1948 revolution.

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Plastico is said with a sneer because few Costa Ricans like the 1,000-colon note which actually is made from that material. It resists folding and slips out of the pocket easily. Other slang terms cannot be printed.

Some Costa Ricans still call the colon the peso,although it is unlikely that they ever really handled an authentic peso bill. That currency was withdrawn in 1896. About the same time, banks were authorized to print their own bills, so some of the Costa Rica banknotes bear the names of state entities like Banco Anglo. Now issuing banknotes and coins is the domain of the Banco Central.

Although some bills have been called by the name of the individual printed on the face, the new 50,000-colon banknote is likely to be called themariposa for the butterfly on the back. Everyone knows José María Figueres Ferrer, but hardly anyone knows Ricardo Jiménez Oreamuno whose face graces the 50,000-colon note.

Better known is Carmen Lyra, the pen name of famous writer María Isabel Carvajal. She is on the 20,000-colon note. That might have quickly been called a carmen if many Costa Ricans did not like it. The denomination was too large for most retail trade, and some stores refused to accept it at first. The bill has a hummingbird on the reverse, so it might end up being known as acolibrí.

The new bills gradually are replacing the older versions. The older 5,000-colon, the tucán, and the 10,000-colon notes are valid for daily use until Dec. 31. After that they will have to be exchanged at a bank. After May 1 only the Banco Central will make the exchange for newer bills.

All the new bills except the hated 1,000-colon note are printed on cotton-fiber paper. They are different sizes to help sightless individuals.

In addition to slang terms, bills are great tools for satire. One Costa Rican Web site has issued its own set of bills, including one of 4.8 million colons for use by tax-happy lawmakers. There also is a 627,000-colon banknote to commemorate a $1,100 lunch politicians enjoyed at an Escazú restaurant. Featured on the bill is the face of former housing minister Clara Zomer, who ordered a $60 bottle of wine. All were with various anti-poverty agencies.

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