06 June 2012

"Hole In The Wall" - 1980s Slang For Cash Dispensers...

Appealing to the teens - NatWest, 1984.

Cash points began to become popular in the 1980s. But as for having a Mum that would always give you money when you wanted it - that was pure pie in the sky!

Susie has written to ask:

When did the slang "Hole In The Wall" come about to describe cash point machines at banks?

In the mid-1980s, Susie.

The first cash machine was installed in 1967, but a combination of little dosh, lack of interest and suspicion of new technology meant that it wasn't until the 1980s that these little beauties really began to impact on the great unwashed.

Barclays issuing the UK's first debit card, the Connect Card, on June 3 1987, quickened the ATM's journey into the mainstream no end. Suddenly, plastic money and cash points were not just for those rich enough to afford a credit card, students, etc.

We woz getting bank accounts (largely because our employers wanted to pay our wages into them as the decade progressed). And we could draw out our money when we wanted and pay with our debit card in the shops!

And also in the 1980s, banks were trying to be very trendy indeed and appeal to kids, school leavers and students (remember Griffin, voiced by Richard Briers?).

Trendy slang was inevitable.

The excellent book 20th Century Words, by Jon Ayto (Oxford, 1999), traced the origins of the "hole in the wall" slang to the mid-1980s:


noun (1985) an automatic cash dispenser installed in the (outside) wall of a bank or other building. Colloquial, mainly British.

The book provided an example of the usage of the slang in an extract from Today newspaper, 1987:

Three [banks], along with Royal Bank of Scotland... are set to unveil their joint hole-in-the-wall cash machine network.

The name I most remember being used to refer to the hole-in-the-wall of the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s was "cash point".

By the end of the 1980s, many people were still unfamiliar with cash points (my mother did not acquire a debit card until the mid-1990s and I know of many other people in my own neighbourhood who held off).

But they had certainly come a long way.

And many of us found it difficult to imagine life without cash on demand, day or night!

In more recent times, the "hole in the wall" name was trademarked by Barclays as part of an initiative to vanquish unnecessary jargon.

1985 - the fabulous Griffin - from the Listening Bank!

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