A brief history of gazontas

Gazontas was not originally my word, but it has become my word.

On my first big adventure in 2001, I travelled around Europe for six months with my friend KitKat. In those days, we didn’t have the Euro. Every few days we changed countries and we also changed currencies. It was kind of fun, seeing how each country was different to the last. Sometimes we didn’t realise we’d changed countries and tried to use the wrong currency. Often we wound up with enough money left over from one country to be annoying, but not enough to exchange. Those were different times!

But when you’re changing currency every week or so, you start to forget what they’re called. Was this a forint or a crown? Is the small money a groschen or a centime? How many pesetas to a dollar? How many French francs to a Swiss franc?

You young people, you won’t remember those times.

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But while we were young, we were also forgetful, and we could rarely distinguish one currency from another. And so, to save time, all currency became goozers.

Goozers.

The accommo is a hundred goozers. This beer is ten goozers. I reckon a coffee might be twelve goozers. We should take the bus, cos the train is 70 goozers.

And so on.

I’m almost certain this awful word has its origins in the German currency groschen, which KitKat had great difficulty saying.

We were in Budapest one week, and we must have been talking aloud about money. “How many goozers is that?” KitKat asked. “I dunno,” I said. “Maybe like a hundy goozers?”

Some people we didn’t know, but who would later become friends, overheard us.

“Do you call ’em gazontas, too?” one of them said. “That’s what we call them!”

And so ‘gazontas’ entered my vocabulary, and it was very welcome.

I’m reminded of this today because C just messaged me from the airport in Doha. Beer is evidently quite expensive there. This was the source of some stress. However, I’m relieved to find that she has found beer for “30 gozontas. 8 euros maybe?”

From my friends in Budapest, to me, to C in Doha, gazontas, gozontas, however they are spelled, live on.

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Nat Newman

Nat Newman is an award-winning writer of short stories, content, podcasts, feature articles, drunk text messages and, soon, a novella.

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