A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 08, 2009
Chump Change

Entry in progress—B.P.

Wiktionary
chump change (uncountable)
1. (US, Canada, idiomatic, slang) A sum of money considered to be insignificant.
He spent $300,000 for his new car, but that’s chump change for a billionaire like him.
2. (US, Canada, idiomatic, slang) An amount of remuneration, reward, or other monetary recompense considered to be insultingly small.
If you sell one of those cars, your commission will be chump change.
I don’t work for chump change. I quit!


Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Main Entry: chump change
Function: noun
Date: 1967
: a relatively small or insignificant amount of money

(Historical Dictionary of American Slang)
chump change n. Black E. a small amount of money; CHICKENFEED; (hence) a triviality.
1967 Beck Pimp 285 [ref. to 1940’s]: Western whores were lazy and satisfied with making “chump change.”
1968-70 Campus Slang III & IV 26: My chump change is running low.
1970 Cain Blueschild Baby 32: The toughs stand at the entrances...jingling chump change in their pockets.
1970 Winick & Kinsie Lively Commerce 120: Some pimps even have part-time “legitimate” jobs and receive only “chump change” or pocket money from their prostitutes.
1873 I. Reed La. Red 62: To be a man was easy; chump change. Antigone was after bigger game.
1974 Blount 3 Bricks Shy 10: And Joe Greene once referred to $50 as “chump change.”
1978 B. Johnson What’s Happenin’ 63: Who else out there wants to give me some chump change?
1987 Newsweek (Mar. 23) 63: He wasn’t going to be like his daddy, slaving for chump change.
1992 Daybreak Sunday (CNN-TV)(Mar. 8): If I had five million and chump change, I’d do it myself.
1993 C. Vandersee Dictionaries 3: Chump change...Houston Baker [former MLA president] told me he remembered the term in Louisville as far back as the 1950s or 1960s. [Economist] James Steward at Penn State says he knew it growing up in Cleveland in the late Forties and early Fifties.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
chump change n. slang (orig. in African-American usage) a small or negligible sum of money; small change.
1967 ‘ICEBERG SLIM’ Pimp xx. 285 Western whores were lazy and satisfied with making ‘*chump change’.
1977 N.Y. Times 25 May 74 The gang has stagnated… The members have become ‘surplus people’, hanging around street-corners..searching for ‘chump change’.
1988 J. ELLROY Big Nowhere xli. 394 Coleman knew he needed money to finance his killing spree, and he was only making chump change gigging on Central Avenue.
2001 Guardian 7 Feb. II. 14/4 A quarter of a million pounds. As public spending goes, it’s chump change.

1 May 1965, Philadelphia (PA) Tribune, “Accent on Labor: After Poverty Chiefs’ Salaries, What’ll Be Left for The Poor?"by George Johnson, pg. 7, col. 5:
With so much poverty all around us (and there could be as many as 40 million or more families qualifying) in this the richest country in the world, hardly anyone with a fair sense of economics, expected the “War on Poverty” to be won with a mere bagful of leftover “chump change” after some payments on the national debt.

OCLC WorldCat record
Chump Change
Author: Eliot Rodriguez
Publisher: New York : Youth Film Distribution Center, 1969.
Edition/Format: Film : Picture : English
Summary: Two boys looking for direction are cheated and frightened by “Mr. Society.” The film suggests that professional poverty workers are exploitive of their clients.

Google Books
An Introduction to the Black Panther Party
By John Brown Society, Radical Education Project
Published by Radical Education Project
1969
Pg. 20:
... and murder and brutalize and intimidate people just for some chickenshit chump change.

Google Books
Black Slang:
A Dictionary of Afro-American Talk

Edited by Clarence Major
Published by Routledge
1971
Pg. 27:
Chump change: a small amount of money.

Google Books
25 October 1971, New York magazine, “The Song of Joe B” by Felipe Luciano, pg. 51, col. 1:
Other identifying affectations were a hat turned backwards on your head, the latest style of clothing, some chump change in your pocket and nothing in your brain except total boredom.

Google Books
Chump Change
By David Eddie
Published by Random House of Canada Ltd.
1996

Google Books
Chump Change
By Dan Fante
Published by Sun Dog Press
1998

New York (NY) Times
ON LANGUAGE; Chump Change
By WILLIAM SAFIRE
Published: June 5, 2005
(...)
Begin with chump. In the 1864 edition of J.C. Hotten’s Slang Dictionary, it was defined as ‘’the head or face. . . . A half-idiotic or daft person is said to be off his chump.’’ The chump then became synonymous with ‘’fool’’: Senator Marcus A. Hanna, who considered ‘’politician’’ to be a high calling, in 1902 derided an opponent: ‘’I used to think he was a politician, but I don’t now. He’s a chump.’’

That sense of being a jerk, easily defeated, was accentuated by its contrast with the similar-sounding champ. But by 1930, in his Dictionary of the Underworld, Eric Partridge detected a sinister connotation in the verb form of chump, meaning ‘’to hoodwink’’: ‘’Every once in a while I chump a guy for some real dough.’’ That meaning was taken up in the world of prostitution, married to ‘’trivial amount,’’ and in 1967, Robert Beck wrote in ‘’Pimp’’ that in the 1940’s ‘’Western whores were lazy and satisfied with making ‘chump change.’’’ The novelist George Cain wrote in the 1970 ‘’Blueschild Baby,’’ ‘’The toughs stand at the entrances . . . jingling chump change in their pockets.’’ James Ellroy had his fictional villain in 1988 ‘’only making chump change gigging on Central Avenue.’’

Now the phrase is used 24/7 (a numeric locution that has temporarily replaced the nondigital round the clock as well as the slangily natural allatime). It is most frequently used to describe a huge number that pales in comparison with an even bigger number: ‘’An extra $11 billion in the highway bill may seem like chump change to most of the Senate,’’ grumbles The San Antonio Express. Or, as my source uses the phrase, it’s what dot-com dukes think of as a measly $10 million. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • Friday, May 08, 2009 • Permalink