How did ‘wonga’ come to be used as slang for money?

8 September 2018 9:00 AM

Origins of Wonga

The payday lender Wonga has gone into administration. How did ‘wonga’ come to be used as slang for money?
— The term is believed to have derived from the Romany word ‘wangar’ which, although used as a term for money, in fact means ‘coal’. This in turn has Indo-Iranian origins.
— In English, too, ‘coal’ or ‘cole’ were used as slang for ‘money’ in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the possession of coal really did equate to wealth.

Shrinking economies

The Venezuelan economy is estimated to have shrunk by half over the past five years. How does that compare with the most severe economic crises of the past 150 years?

Chile, 1920s -46.6%
Uruguay, early 1930s -36.1%
Spain, early 1930s -34.6%
Peru, 1983 -32.0%
Mexico, 1929 -31.1%
Canada, 1923 -30.1%
US, 1929–33 -28.6%
Australia, 1893 -28.0%

Source: American Economic Review

Where popes go

Pope Francis visited Ireland. No pope left Italy and the Vatican City from 1809 until Pope Paul VI travelled to Jordan and Israel in 1964. Which countries have received the largest number of papal visits since then?

Poland 11
US, France 10
Mexico, Portugal 7
Germany, Spain, Switzerland 6
Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Cuba, Philippines, Brazil, Austria, Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia, Malta 4


Snipping the civil service

Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said he was looking to increase the number of civil servants working on Brexit from 7,000 to 9,000. Which government departments employ the most civil servants?

Department of Work
and Pensions
Ministry of Justice 65,370
Ministry of Defence 48,110
Home Office 27,830
Foreign and Commonwealth Office 4,390
Department for Education 3,350

And what areas do they cover?

Operational delivery 177,130
Policy 20,370
Tax 16,740
Project delivery 12,710
Science and engineering 11,640
Digital, data and technology 10,410