Phil: How much is "wow"?Large sums of money tend not to be specified on TV. They are written down on pieces of paper, whispered in people's ears, etc. Commonly involves characters blatantly stating "That's a lot of money!" or making a statement about a large number of zeros, though other variations exist. There are a few reasons to do this:
Bob: Right up there between, "uh", "ouch" and "boing".
Bob: Right up there between, "uh", "ouch" and "boing".
- To avoid the show becoming dated by inflation.
- Because people's definition of "a lot of money" varies.
- In the case of Fictional Currency, to avoid fans from finding contradictions regarding its value.
- To let our imagination do the work.
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Anime and Manga
- An episode of Naruto where, upon finding Jiraiya's checkbook, Naruto opens it and exclaims "Woah! That's a lot of zeros!" Apparently, writing erotic novels can pay pretty well...
- Word of God says that Tsunade's gambling debts are around that high.
- Averted after the timeskip, when it is stated that Chiriku has a bounty of 30 million ryo on his head, and it is stated that one ryo is ten yen, and ten ryo is approximately one dollar, and databooks specify the rewards for missions.
- At one point in D.Gray-Man, characters are discussing the amount of damage caused by "Phantom Thief G." When someone holds up a piece of paper with the number on it, it's pixellated out. Of course, what with Komui's reaction, this is probably more to do with the Rule of Funny than anything else.
- Fullmetal Alchemist has Ed give Sheska his pocket watch and a figure to take from his research budget for recreating a book for him. Cue stunned "That's a lot of money!", with a stunned Maria Ross standing by for emphasis. "Who is this kid?!" indeed.
- Mega Man: Dr. Light apparently got a very healthy sum to design combat robots for the military after Blues' demonstration. It was this money and what he made selling Sniper Joes to the army that helped to fund Light Labs in the first place.
- In the 1954 film White Christmas, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby), gets the estimate on how much the Christmas show is going to cost over the phone. His reaction: "Wow!", which leads to an exchange with Phil Davis (Danny Kaye):
Phil: How much is "wow"?Bob: Right up there between, uh, "ouch" and "boing".Phil: Wow!
- The stake at the beginning of the 1997 film The Spanish Prisoner is not shown to the audience, but is presumably an impressive sum.
- In The Game, the bill for the eponymous game is left unrevealed, yet it is apparently enough to leave two millionaire brothers quite surprised.
- Subverted in the Austin Powers movies: 1960s Big Bad Dr. Evil is initially laughed down when he asks the leaders of the governments of the (modern) world for a paltry one meeellion dollars as ransom for the world. He later asks the government leaders in the past for one hundred billion dollars; they respond that such an amount doesn't even exist.
- Used at the end of the movie Small Soldiers. The father of the family nearly killed by dangerous action figures yells at the CEO of the company that made them, saying something like "Not even you have enough money to make up for this." His secretary then, silently, prints out a check. The father reads it, and then says something like "OK... I guess you do..." The audience never sees just how much the check was for.
- In Clean Slate, the Dana Carvey character is given a check as a bribe not to testify against a local crime boss. We don't see the amount, just Carvey's reaction and his question "is that a comma?"
- Flubber uses the "I've never seen that many zeros!" variety when Robin Williams sells the flying car to a car company.
- Played straight in Moneyball, when Billy Beane is given an unspecified offer to become GM of the Red Sox... until the epilogue ten minutes later, which tells us the exact amount: 12.5 million. Probably done for dramatic effect more than anything else.
- In Scarface (1983), crooked cop Mel Bernstein corners Tony at a club and tries to force him to set up a regular bribe payment. He writes the amount on a napkin and shows it to Tony who just comments "Big number." The novelization specifies it as being $25,000.
- A Fairly Odd Summer: Mr. Turner's boss tasks him with hiring dancers for the company's luau and gives him a check to pay the dancers. The check has "a lotta money" written on the space reserved for the check's value.
- In The Departed, when Billy is hired for the undercover job, Da Chief Queenan writes a sum on a piece of paper and hands it to him. We never get to see how much he was offered, but we can assume these are the $30,000 "insurance money" Billy later claims to have received for his mother's death.
- A running gag in Entourage is exactly how much Turtle has made from the IPO of his tequila company with Mark Cuban. Johnny admits Turtle hasn't directly told even his closest friends and family, but it's enough to have a beach-side mansion all the characters live in, and be able to put up $8 million dollars to help Vincent's latest film as a personal loan.
- In Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Mr. Macy gives Kris Kringle a bonus for his work in increasing company goodwill. The amount isn't shown, but Kris does a Double Take and says, "Ooh, that's quite a lot of money!" Macy's rival Gimbel observes, "I didn't think you were that generous!" In a slight subversion, though, the check is not quite enough to pay for the gift Kris plans to buy with it, giving Gimbel the opportunity to offer him a generous discount of his own.
- In Mostly Harmless Ford Prefect "names a figure" as a tip for the bar singer (strongly implied to be Elvis Presley). The figure causes the barman to faint, but Arthur Dent doesn't react because he doesn't know how much it's worth. Ford says it would buy you "roughly... Switzerland."
- Older Than Radio: At the end of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge whispers to the two gentlemen from the story's beginning (the ones asking for charitable donations) how much he will give, causing them to react in amazement.
Those film and theater adaptations that do name a figure give a value that in those days was roughly equal to the salary of a semi-skilled laborer... for three or four years (For example, Scrooge has Scrooge pledge 100 guineas, or £120. For most of the film, Bob Cratchit was supporting a family of seven on £39 a year).
- Early in the Anita Blake series, Anita needs to question a prostitute in order to get some information on her case, and she has to buy the time. All we know is that Anita's shocked at the amount (well, and that the prostitute was fully convinced Anita was just using an Unusual Euphemism).
- In the Quantum Gravity series, money is never mentioned with an explicit number. Whether it is merely called a lot of money or about to be told and then cut off as a curse might be varies. Given that this is a universe where our universe essentially exploded and mixed very thoroughly with five others, and the currency is likely something no reader would recognize anyway, the amounts would be...complex.
- Harry Potter comes into quite a bit of gold as the heir to the Potter and Black family fortunes, but just how rich he is isn't specified.
- Also, the wizarding world uses different currency anyway, and the exchange rate with Pounds Sterling or any other real-life currency is never specified, so being able to attach a number to it wouldn't really mean that much.
- Similarly, the price of the top-of-the-line Firebolt is only stated to be "price on request," something that Harry understands to mean "more than I'd be willing to pay for it."
- When the eponymous character of The Dresden Files asks what it would cost to hire Professional Killer Kincaid as backup for a raid, the answer is "a sum that made the amount in my savings account look very small indeed".
- This is an issue for Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels because of their use of Comic-Book Time. When Spenser first appeared in the early 70s, his daily rate was specified as $100 a day. Later that became $200 a day. Eventually Spenser would seem say, as narrator, things like, "I told the client how much I charged, we argued about it, they complained it was too much, I told them to bite me, and finally they paid me what I had asked for in the first place."
- In Atlas Shrugged, when Dagny and Quentin discuss compensation for researching Dagny's Lost Technology find, Quentin's cut of potential profits is handled this way, from the mention to Dagny's reaction:
"That is skinning me alive and it will be worth my while."
- Given the fact that the discovery will revolutionize transportation and power generation even 1% of the profits would be a fortune.
- Played with in All the Wrong Questions. The Bombinating Beast statue is described as being worth "upwards of a great deal of money". In fact, amounts of money are never given in the series.
Live Action TV
- In NewsRadio, Mr James shows Dave the amount he was offered for the radio station, written on a piece of paper, and we don't see it. Dave thinks it's not excessively generous until Mr James points out he has to unfold the paper.
- Played with in another episode, when Mr James is trying to convince Dave and Lisa to get together and he writes down something on a piece of paper in order to sweeten the deal.
Lisa: This paper says 'please'.Mr James: I'm willing to say that out loud if that's what it takes.
- Played with in another episode, when Mr James is trying to convince Dave and Lisa to get together and he writes down something on a piece of paper in order to sweeten the deal.
- In Friends, Chandler cuts short of telling Monica how much money he has in his bank account, writing it down and showing her instead; in context, this is because he doesn't want to say it in front of Rachel and Phoebe, but Monica shows them the figure anyway. It's described as "the budget of Wedding Scenario A", to give the audience a general idea of how much it must be. Ofcourse Chandler is skeptical about spending all of his bank savings on the wedding.
- In another episode, Chandler tries to quit his job over the phone. Judging by Chandler's end of the phone call, his boss offered Chandler bigger and bigger raises until Chandler changed his mind.
- In Seinfeld, Jerry buys a suede jacket with an unnamed but astronomical price which he refuses to tell to George. It's at least implied that the jacket costs something north of a thousand dollars.
- Another example would be in The Cadillac episode, where Jerry earns enough money to buy a Cadillac, from a single gig.
- On Nip/Tuck, Sean sells his share of the practice for "a lot of money."
- In Mad About You, Jamie makes a huge bet on a horse race; we only see Paul's reaction when she shows him the betting slips. The horse wins at very long odds, which presumably means the Buchmans won a small fortune, but this fact isn't even brought up.
- Subversion: On The Drew Carey Show, Millionaire Mrs. Lauder offers Drew 00 for his house in a land-grab. He is reeled, then responds that his house is clearly worth more. Mrs. Lauder says that she knew, but her accountants had scientifically calculated that exact amount as the minimum sum that poor people think is "a lot".
- The whole inflation deal is parodied in a Muppets Tonight sketch, in which a character inherits a "fortune" of "eighty-five dollars." (Miss Piggy: "What!? I've got more than that on me!")
- A similar device is used in one episode of The Sarah Silverman Program, in which the eponymous character is asked by a nurse how many times she has had unprotected sex. Rather than say it out loud, Sarah writes it down on a piece of paper. The nurse seems more confused by the fact that there are two numbers on the piece of paper ("One's for the front") and that they are both identical ("I'm kind of OCD about that") than surprised at the size of the figure, but given the content of the rest of the scene, it can be assumed that the number is very high.
- In Friday Night Lights' first season, the Street family's lawsuit's settlement is for a number written down on a piece of paper, after a whole scene of debating between two opposing, also never-spoken-aloud amounts.
- A sketch on The Sketch Show played with this, which a woman discusses with a repairman his prices using onomatopoeia (whistles for high prices, "eh" for low prices, etc.) At the end of the sketch, the woman asks how much it would be if she helps install it, and he replies, "£50".
- On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, after a long series of episodes where Buffy is shown needing money, the problem is abruptly solved with some money from Giles. The money is implied to be a large amount, but its value (true to this trope) is never shown.
- Subverted on Leverage in "The Juror #6 Job" when Sophie writes $100,000,000 in the guy's Zen sand garden.
- Also subverted on the pilot where the payout is printed on the check as $32,761,349.05.
- A running joke on Bones is the amount of money that Brennan makes from her novels.
- No sum is ever given for the cost of hiring (renting?) a doll from the Dollhouse, but it costs at least six figures if not seven. In "Epitaph One", we learn that Rossum is now charging "a nine-figure sum" for a full body transplant.
- A hundred mil every sixty or so years for true immortality? That's a steal!
- Rumpole of the Bailey: The amount that Rumpole received from the Bugle (a lawyer-friendly version of the Sun) in "Rumpole and the Bubble Reputation" was sufficiently large that Henry revealed the amount to Rumpole by showing him the file (at which point Rumpole's eyes widened). Averted in part, as we do learn that the refresher for the brief was £500/day.
- Subverted in The Honeymooners: a rich old widow who Ralph had befriended dies, and leaves Ralph "my fortune" in her will. Ralph gets excited about the riches coming his way, but it turns out she meant Fortune, her pet parrot.
- Gilmore Girls sets up its fundamental conflict (independent-minded Lorelai is forced to accept the help of her parents in order to provide for her daughter's elite education):
Lorelai (on phone): Yes, I read your letter, and gee, that is an awful lot of zeros after that five...
- This trope was later toyed with when Lorelai and Sookie are opening their own inn. They have cash flow issues during construction, and Lorelai borrows $30,000 from Luke. While the amount is state aloud, the terms of the loan (interest, schedule, etc) are working out on a napkin so that diner patrons won't overhear.
- A Wings episode has Joe and Helen meeting with the insurance adjuster after the loss of their house and all its contents in a fire. The meeting goes poorly, to say the least, and ends with the adjuster saying "I'm sorry, but we can't do any better than this", at which point he writes down a figure on a piece of paper and leaves. Joe and Helen look at the paper with trepidation, shrug for a moment, then begin dancing with joy. "We're rich! We're rich!"
- On The Big Bang Theory, when Sheldon mentions that Raj's parents are rich, the most detail he goes into is that they're "Richie Rich"-rich, which is apparently "halfway between Bruce Wayne and Scrooge McDuck."
- On Life, the amount of money included in Charlie Crews's settlement for his wrongful imprisonment is undisclosed by court order.note
- In How I Met Your Mother, Lily asks for the price of a wedding dress on a scale of "never" to "never ever". She receives a response of "never ever ever ever ever times infinity". This is then subverted later in the episode when she tells her fiance she accidentally destroyed it. It was worth $8000.
- When telling his kids about Barney finally revealing how much money he spends on suits each month, narrator Ted only refers to it as a "crapload". Later in the episode we find out that when Barney became a corporate executive his starting salary was "16 craploads". When it is revealed that Robin's family is very rich the amount is "6,000 craploads".
- Played straight when a corporate lawyer was trying to get Marshall away from the environmental group he dreamed of working.
- On Night Court, after being informed of a citizenship applicant's net worth, Dan Fielding's stunned comment is: "My Social Security Number isn't that big!" (to non-US tropers, an American SSN is 9 digits long, though it is possible for it to start with one or more zeroes)
- In Person of Interest, it is never stated exactly what Finch is paying Reese to save the Irrelevant Numbers, but according to the second season finale, Reese is able to live quite comfortably in a very expensive apartment on that salary — after giving 90% of it to charity.
- On Parks and Recreation, Ron Swanson's hidden cache of precious metals and gems is valuable enough that it shocks an estate attorney, and even 5% of it is still an absurd number.
- At the end of the Absolute Power episode "Big Brother", when Martin gets the firm their Downing Street retainer back:
Charles: "This is to confirm that Prentice McCabe are retained by the Prime Minister's office to give political and public relations advice as required at a fee of..." Good lord![...]Well, we can afford dinner at the Ritz.Martin: My dear Charles, we can afford to buy the Ritz.
- In the original radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the following exchange takes place in the fourth episode, regarding the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything:
Frankie Mouse: (addressing Arthur Dent) Your agent has suggested that both you and the Earth girl, as last generation products of the computer matrixare probably in an ideal position to find the question for us and find it quickly. Go out and find it for us and we'll make you a reasonably rich man.Zaphod: We're holding out for extremely rich.Frankie Mouse: All right, extremely rich. You drive a hard bargain, Beeblebrox.
- The World of Darkness has the Resource stat, indicating in vague terms how much wealth (be it in cash, properties, stocks, holdings, etc.) a character has at their disposal, and what kind of lifestyle they can maintain. One dot means they can subsist at working class level, and five dots indicate an obscene amount of dosh. Zero dots, to the dismay of any player who didn't bother with the stat for whatever reason, means the character is flat broke and likely lives as a hobo.
- Rogue Trader has Profit Factor which is an abstraction of the total purchasing power of the Rogue Trader. Acquiring items is done by rolling against the stat (with modifiers based on the item's rarity), success means that the item is purchased while failure means that the Rogue Trader cannot afford the item at this time (or that the item is unavailable in this location).
- Justified by interplanetary trading being, essentially, barter. Even within the same empire the only craft that can cross the warp are a relative handful owned by the aristocracy or government/military, so civilian economies are necessarily self-contained by planet. Profit factor isn't an abstraction of currency so much as it is an abstraction of the trader's insight, luck, and skill in selecting what to put in his share of the cargo at the last stop.
- In 42nd Street, Dorothy Brock's list of ridiculous additions to her contract is capped off with "no problem with the salary... I just added another zero."
- Played with in The Curse of Monkey Island: During an attempt to purchase a Plot Coupon, the character who owns it states that "it would cost you an awful lot of money," and then asks if Guybrush has that much money. If the player has already completed an insurance fraud quest (which yields "a lot of money" as the reward), Guybrush will offer "a lot of money," only to be turned down: The diamond cannot be sold for "anything less than an awful lot of money."
- Fortunately, you do have the option to play the men at poker for the Plot Coupon, and the buy-in is "not very much", which, given that he very distinctly has "a lot of money," Guybrush can amply afford.
- Played straight in Mother 2, but averted in EarthBound. During localization, for some reason a couple of vague references meaning roughly "a bajillion dollars" were changed to real numbers (Ness' family's debt to Porky's family is "a hundred thousand dollars or more" and the Diamond "could pay off a million dollar debt easily").
- When Tony and Bam are shown the total bill for the actual storyline events in Tony Hawk's Underground 2, the amount's obscure but they're quite glad to have someone else foot the bill.
- In Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, Strong Bad has to pay for his Fun Machine repairs with "one big sack of cash". After kicking off his moneymaking scheme, a battle of the bands (wherein he asks each band playing to enter a "few handfuls of cash"), he's dismayed to learn that his profits only amount to "half a big sack of cash".
- In the World of Warcraft novel The Shattering Prelude to Cataclysm, it's never specified how much Gazlowe charges to rebuild Orgrimmar aftre the fire, or how much Baine and Stormsong pay him for the supplies to retake Thunder Bluff, but it's suggested that it's a considerable amount of money. This may be to avoid having to scale it with how expensive things are in the game.
- In the X-COM remake, the shadowy council provides your funding in "credits". Considering you get an achievement for earning 1000 credits in a month of operations and how comparatively little it costs for the Engineering department to, say, build a spacefaring fighter craft from the ground up (with some scrap metal taken from various alien objects), then outfit it with a fusion cannon capable of blowing an alien BATTLESHIP out of the sky with two shots, it can be assumed that "credits" are worth a hellalotta moneynote .
- There is however a way to translate "credits" to real world money: There are Real Life satellite launches. You as the X-COM commander is required to build and place satellites for about 30 or so credits. Given that this pays for the "much better than a communications/GPS" hardware and the cost of sending said hardware into orbit, the ballpark amount of funds for those Heavy Plasmas can probably pay the annual running costs of a small nation...
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, quest rewards are never specified in dialogue; this is because you get paid the same number of credits as every other quest at that level. Instead, expect to hear phrases like "rest assured, the Republic/Empire will compensate you well for this". Especially egregious in the case of the Bounty Hunter, who has the repeated line "let's get more specific about my pay". Somehow, the meaning of "specific" manages to elude every quest-giver in the galaxy.
- Both played straight and averted, on separate occasions, in the webcomic Scandal Sheet!. Played straight when Max shows Foster his first paycheque for working at The Comet — Foster's eyes grow large and he says "That's a lot of zeros." However, it's averted later when Foster receives a large amount of money from his former co-worker at the porn studio, who found his script for Thigh-tanic and produced it, with enormous success. The amount is specified to be ten thousand dollars.
- Schlock Mercenary plays it straight with Lunesby, here. Usually averts it, but gets the same effect by using real numbers but in something other than units of currency, like saying something cost a character a years pay.
- The Dragon Doctors never discuss funds in direct amounts, partially because of the fantasy setting. It's hinted that the protagonists are about as rich as you would expect a team of world-class doctors to be.
- Plus they have the backing from an as-yet-unrevealed donor, who funds them directly for all their interesting cases.
- Cartoon shorts in World War II and The Fifties often threw around figures in the low millions when the subject of obscene wealth was mentioned. (Often in a On One Condition story.) This led to the very datedness effect that many of these other examples strive to avoid.
- In the Disney cartoon series Hercules: The Animated Series, Croesus, the King of Atlantis, writes out checks to buy off several people to stop the "rumor" that Atlantis is doomed to sink beneath the waves — including the Fates and Hades, god of the underworld. This at first offends Hades, till he sees the amount on the check... "You think you can buy off HADES, GOD OF THE UNDERWORLD, with a wuh-wuh-whoa that is a LOT of brimstone...." (The joke being that Croesus was IRL the wealthiest king in Greek history up to his time....hence the phrase "rich as Croesus")
- And this is Hades he's buying off, the guy who was known in Roman Mythology as Pluto, which means "The Rich One". As God of the Underworld, he's given domain over not just the afterlife but also the all the gold and other minerals that are still in the ground.
- In Gargoyles, Xanatos tells his father the exact amount that the rare coin that started his fortune was worth... but then goes on to say that his current fortune is "well, considerably more."
- In an early episode of The Simpsons, Homer sues Burns for hitting Bart while in a car. After Burns destroys Homer's credibility in the eyes of the jury, he offers to settle with Homer. He writes down a number on a piece of paper, and slides it across the table, grinning and saying "I think you'll find this number much more feasible." There's a big zero on the paper.
Homer's Lawyer: I think you should take his offer.
- In another episode, Homer needs a operation to stop him snoring. Dr. Hibbert gives them a price we never see. We do see Homer's response: "Do it for free."
- In one of the 1970s or 1980s Spider-Man cartoons, an extremely high price was whispered in somebody's ear, twice. Each time, the flabbergasted listener blurted, "... AND SEVENTY-FIVE CENTS?!?"
- In The Christmas Tree, the mayor pays the orphanage with bags of money. He doesn't state how much the contents of the bags are worth, just that he's giving them two bags.
- Used in The Cleveland Show, although this case is justified as Cleveland's son inherits a large amount of money from Cleveland's first wife On One Condition - Cleveland is not allowed to know how much. Instead of losing the money as these as they always do in these kinds of scenarios the issue isn't brought up again.
- Real Life example: In soccer, clubs sometimes list the transfer fee paid for a player as 'undisclosed'; this usually means 'more than people think he's worth'.
- Several deals, settlements and contracts do not disclose terms.
- Often, the contract or deed will specify that A sells property to B for tiny amount of money, such as $1, as well as "other considerations", which are of course the real reason A and B agreed to the deal. This may be to conceal the precise value of the property (if it's worth a lot, people might ask why or speculatively buy land around it, similar items, etc.), to conceal other favors or considerations taken (B might be giving A other property in return, taking on A's debts, or so forth), or just to elide the complex Chain of Deals that led to that point.
- A form of bidding used in Japanese fish markets, for top class/dollar fish prized by chefs, has bidders slipping their bid in a small piece of folded paper to a seller. They don't wave number in the open or yell or take the time to outbid because time is so critical a mere minute of haggling could affect the quality of the fish.
- A lot of other auctions require that the bidders submit sealed bids. This is because being able to see what other people are bidding both reveals potentially information to other bidders and, at the same time, allows those make the bids to game the system.