Negotiable instrument

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So I took my cow
And I cashed it against the wall.
I cashed it against the floor.
I cashed it against the body of a varsity cheerleader.
Cashed it against the hood of a car.
Cashed it against a 1981 Harley-Davidson.
And I ran upstairs to my parents’ bedroom, where
Mommy and Daddy were sleeping quietly in the moonlight. Slowly I opened the door —
Creeping into the shadows, right up to the foot of their bed,
I raised the cow high above my head,
And just as I was about to bring it crashing down —
My father woke up, screaming “STOP!!”
“Wait a minute! Stop it, boy! What do you think you’re doing?”
“That’s no way to treat an expensive negotiable instrument!”
And I said, “Goddamn it, Daddy: you know I love you,”
“But you’ve got a hell of a lot to learn about Rock ’n’ Roll.”

—Jim Steinman, Love, Death and an American Milking Devon

Negotiable instrument /nɪˈgəʊʃiəbəl ˈɪnstrʊmənt/ (n.)An instrument conferring a right to a payment of money or the delivery assets which the bearer can, without the issuer’s consent, transfer to a third party (a process known as, confusingly, as “negotiating”).

These days, negotiable instruments are more or less the same as transferable securities, but in the good old days banker’s drafts, cheques, bills of exchange, promissory notes and — well, large ruminant herbivores[1] — which did not count as securities but were nonetheless negotiable.

The new generation of crypto-currencies (you know, like bitcoin) may just usher in a new golden era for negotiable instruments. We’ll see.

See also


  1. Mansuetae naturae, needless to say.