Who Put The $ In Ke$ha? Where Did The $ Come From?

From the California dance band !!! to MIA spelling out her name in dashes, musical artists seem to love putting symbols in their names. Perhaps none more extravagant than pop star Ke$ha, who differentiates herself with a single letter substitution.

Born Kesha Rose Sebert, the singer/songwriter/rapper simply exchanged the S in her first name with a $ (or dollar sign). The artist initially made the switch at the beginning of her career as an ironic nod to the difficult financial straits she experienced when she was still a struggling waitress in Los Angeles.

The origin of the dollar sign

Coincidentally, part of the dollar sign’s evolution began in the place where Ke$ha decided to put the symbol in her name. The current leading etymology holds that $ was originally derived from an abbreviation for pesos, meaning “weight” in Spanish. In the middle 1700s the peso was traded in all regions under Spanish control, from Southern California to South America, and the sign was commonly contracted as “ps.” Many historians believe that the dollar sign we know today was born from the bad handwriting of merchants who allowed the line in P to fall in front of the S.

There is however another camp of scholars who think that the dollar sign originated from a far more deliberate abbreviation of peso. Originally referred to as the “piece of eight,” the peso came to represent the Bolivian eight-sol and Peruvian eight-real coins. With this history in place the S in the modern dollar sign was thought to represent the numeral 8 with the bisecting line meaning that the 8 was cut in pieces.

The original singer with a symbol

Though we may never know the true origin of the dollar sign, Ke$ha might be pleased to know that by putting it in her name she has gained something in common with one of her personal icons, the emperor of pop himself, Prince.

In 1993, Prince changed his name to a symbol a combination of the signs for male (♂) and female (♀) that he dubbed “the love symbol.” Both popular etymologies of the $ involve the combination of two symbols, be it an S and P or a figure 8 with a bisecting line. This etymological similarity will surely be good news for the artist who snuck into Prince’s house when she was a teenager to try to slip him her demo.

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