Trivia

Hard

The Term “Slush Fund” Has Its Origins In?

Sailing
Saloons
Hockey
Air Force Slang
The Karaka, a replica of a trading ship in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Pudelek (Marcin Szala)/Wikimedia

Answer: Sailing

Today, the term “slush fund” has a meaning that ranges from negative to neutral, but it wasn’t always so. Now we use the term to refer to the reserves of money kept on hand by political groups, companies, and other entities to exert influence, buy people off, or secure silence from problematic people. Sometimes it’s used in a neutral fashion to refer to an amount of money with no set purpose held by an organization—e.g. “We’ll pay for the company picnic out of the slush fund.” Regardless, the term isn’t a particularly positive one and you can bet if somebody is accused of having or using a slush fund, then it’s not the kind of story they’d like the press to get their hands on.

Historically, however, slush funds were a positive thing that originated in the nautical world. “Slush” was the fat or grease skimmed from the top of the cauldrons used by cooks when they boiled salted meat aboard sailing vessels. The slush was carefully collected and then, at the next port of call, sold to tallow makers by one of the ship’s officers. The modest funds brought in by this routine were known as a “slush fund” and used to make small purchases for the ship’s crew.

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