beau dollar n Also sp bo dollar, Boer ~, bow ~ [Prob < Fr (through LA creole Fr) beau beautiful—often used as vague term of commendation. The comb beau dollar is attested in Fr texts, though it is not clear whether it specifically denotes a silver dollar.] chiefly Sth, S Midl See Map and Map Section esp freq among Black speakers
A silver dollar.
1941 in 2009 Calt Barrelhouse Words 14, Beau (bo) dollar—You need not think because you’re yeller / I’m gonna give you my last beau dollar. —Son House, “Am I Right Or Wrong,” 1941 (L[ibrary of] C[ongress]). 1944 TN Folk Lore Soc. Bulletin 10.9, A reader inquired about the origin of the term “bo-dollar.” . . The expression is widely used by negroes in the Mid-South, particularly at lumber camps along the Mississippi River. . . Several explanations . . were sent in. . . One suggested . . that “bo-dollar” is a corruption of “boat-dollar,”. . . Another reader said the term was a corruption of the term “hobo dollar,”. . . Another . . suggested that “bo-dollar” was a corruption of the expression “boar dollar,” so-called after the male hog. . . because the negroes considered the boar to be an animal that always achieved what it wanted. 1949 Florence Morning News (SC) 2 Nov 2/5, One of our students, . . asked me if I knew the meaning of a “Boer dollar.” . . He had heard the expression often in the phrase: “I have lost my Boer dollar.” This indicated the loss of luck. . . Nobody knew its origin, or how to spell it. . . Last summer, while in Canada, he renewed his inquiry and was informed that during the Boer War the English soldiers sometimes carried a Boer dollar for a talisman or charm. I then went home, sat down at the dinner table and asked the maid: “Wilhelmina, did you ever hear of a Boer dollar?” “Yes sir.” “Well, what is it?” “It’s a silver dollar.” “Is it lucky to carry one?” “Yes sir, two of ’em is better than one.” 1950 Hughes Simple Speaks, Well, you know how many things a woman carries in her pocketbook. Zarita had lost them all . . compact busted open, powder spilt, mirror, . . big old silver Bow-Dollar for luck, address books, . . also a shoehorn. 1953 PADS 19.9 NC, Bo dollar. . . Silver dollar. Used by Negroes of Pilot Mountain, who customarily go to a local bank to have paper dollars exchanged for silver ones. 1965–70 DARE (Qu. U27, . . A silver dollar) 34 Infs, chiefly Sth, scattered S Midl, Beau dollar [27 Infs Black]. 1971 Chicago Tribune (IL) 14 Feb sec 5 8/1, The first time I heard the expression “Beau-dollar” was 20 years ago when a black man came into my newly opened coin store and asked to purchase one. . . The word “Beau” is a slang expression in Louisiana Cajun French, meaning “real,” as opposed to the paper dollars that have been mistrusted thruout the world’s history. 1972 Atlanta Letters nGA, Beau dollar. Bow dollar—silver dollar. 1973 DARE File cAL, Bo dollar. . . Silver dollar. 1995 (2004) Huntley–Montgomery Black Workers’ Struggle 111 cnAL [Black], So he had a meeting with the black folks and said that he had a big tub sitting over there with a bunch of bow dollars in it. 2002 DARE File seWI, Beau dollar. . . I first ran into the term in 1975 in Milwaukee while I had my coin store. . . I heard it repeatedly but only by blacks.