"This chick's playing with Confederate money."

It is from Seinfeld. Elaine said that when was trying to convince Jerry that some girl had fake breasts. How to decipher it?

There is probably an interplay between the words 'silicone' and 'silicon'. Maybe the Confederate States of America had something significant in the Silicon Valley.

  • Could she have said "counterfeit", maybe? Counterfeit meaning fake, hence the fake breasts?
    – Roger
    Mar 31, 2014 at 19:01
  • @Roger: Not the case.
    – mosceo
    Mar 31, 2014 at 20:01
  • Confederate States abandoned 1865. California became a state in 1850
    – user5432
    Mar 31, 2014 at 21:47
  • California sided with the North in the Civil War. But in any case, as Michael Martinez explains in his answer, this has nothing to do with the real answer to the question. BTW nobody talked about "Silicon Valley" until well after the Civil War. The name comes from the silicon used to make computer chips, and silicon-based computer chips were not invented until about 100 years after the Civil War.
    – Jay
    Apr 1, 2014 at 16:26
  • 2
    Isn't anyone who has read this question enough of a Seinfeld fan to know that Elaine is prone to mispronunciations and malapropisms? You're all overanalyzing this. She meant "counterfeit." The woman she's talking about is bringing something fake to the "dating game" just like a gambler playing poker with counterfeit money. Oct 8, 2015 at 17:50

3 Answers 3


Has nothing to do with silicon or Silicon Valley. It refers to the fact that Confederate money became worthless after the Civil War. She is saying: just as Confederate money is not "real" money, so silicone breasts are not real breasts.

  • Who could know better than someone who actually lives in the Silicon Valley :)
    – mosceo
    Apr 1, 2014 at 8:07
  • Silicon Valley is named thus because of the manufacture of computer chips in the 1970s. It has nothing to do with plastic surgery. Apr 1, 2014 at 17:30
  • I know. I thought there is a very subtle interplay between the words 'silicon' and 'silicone', which kind of connect Silicon Valley with silicone breasts :)
    – mosceo
    Apr 1, 2014 at 17:37

Towards the end of the American Civil War, the Confederate States' dollar became nearly worthless due to massive inflation (similar to the phrase "not worth a Continental", stemming from the Revolutionary War, or the more recent hyperinflation in Zimbabwe).

A simple explanation (thanks Alicja Z) is that it's this inflation that she was referring to.

Another possibility: Being so worthless, you could almost say that the money had become fake. She could also be implying that the fakes are worthless, or not as valuable, as the real thing. If Roger's comment is correct and she said "counterfeit", this meaning of "fake" becomes more directly true.

Silicon Valley wasn't part of the Confederate States: Texas is as far west as the states of the nation had gone by that time. So it's very unlikely that this is the intended meaning.

  • +1 But "not worth a Continental" goes back to the Revolutionary era, and referred to the dollar issued by the Continental Congress. Mar 31, 2014 at 19:17
  • @StoneyB haha, apparently my brain stops after the third letter. I'll fix that...
    – Tim S.
    Mar 31, 2014 at 19:23
  • 4
    Hmm... What if the keyword here isn't fake but rather inflation?
    – Alicja Z
    Mar 31, 2014 at 19:50
  • @AlicjaZ Ooh, very good point. I've added that as my first suggestion.
    – Tim S.
    Mar 31, 2014 at 19:54
  • 2
    I think the meaning is just "fake", since following the end of the American Civil War the money would have been worthless (inflation or no).
    – Charles
    Mar 31, 2014 at 22:54

Elaine misspoke.

The intended term must have been "counterfeit money".

Although actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus did say "confederate money" in the actual episode, it's highly unlikely that the original script used that term. She probably delivered the line incorrectly.

Instead, the proper term would be "counterfeit money". "Counterfeit" describes a fake and fraudulent imitation of something else, something with real value, such as currency or an artwork. In context, "counterfeit" makes perfect sense in the scene, and would be a humorous way to describe fake breasts.

On the other hand, "confederate" doesn't make much sense at all in this context. Perhaps it's possible to devise a convoluted justification for writing the word "confederate" into this scene (as other answers here have attempted), but such explanations are really not very plausible.

So, "counterfeit" is the most appropriate word in the English language for the given context and "confederate" is similar-sounding but nonsensical in context. Therefore, the simple explanation is that the actress misremembered her line and substituted a similar-sounding word for the correct one. Another possibility is that the script itself contains an error, due to a flawed transcription or other mistake. Both explanations make more sense than "confederate money".

  • It is very likely that confederate was in the script. It is a common idiom for counterfeit and would have been intended as humourous. It is not nonsensical at all to use it.
    – Chenmunka
    Jan 29 at 8:47
  • I have never heard of confederate being used in this way. Nonetheless, I did perform a few Google searches to see if there were any such uses, or any Slang dictionaries that listed a relationship between the two words. I could find none. Do you happen to have a reference?
    – naysayer
    Jan 29 at 20:06
  • If not, I’ll have to take your word for it being common… somewhere, even if it’s rarely heard here in the mid-Atlantic region of the US. May I ask which region of the Anglosphere you’ve heard confederate money used in place of counterfeit money? Is it really used in your native England, so far from the original Confederacy?
    – naysayer
    Jan 29 at 20:06
  • It would be interesting to learn, for instance, that the term IS used in the US, but only outside regions which were covered by the actual Confederacy. That would make some degree of sense. After all, in these states, it wasn’t “fake money” at all: it was real, at least for a few years.
    – naysayer
    Jan 29 at 20:10
  • Either way, ANY reference — a dictionary, thesaurus, or an example usage in literature — would be very interesting to see. Sorry I’ve failed to dig up such a reference so far. I did try.
    – naysayer
    Jan 29 at 20:29

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .