BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis, filling in for Carl Kasell. We're playing this week with Ken Jennings, Amy Dickinson, and Roy Blount, Jr. And here again is your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Thank you, Bill.
SAGAL: Right now, it's time for the WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-Wait-Wait to play our game on the air. Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!
CHRISTOPHER YAMAS: Hi Peter, this is Chris in Los Angeles.
SAGAL: Hey, Chris, how are things in L.A.?
YAMAS: Oh, they're going pretty well. It's pretty sunny today.
SAGAL: I bet it is. It always is.
SAGAL: And what do you do there?
YAMAS: Here I am a college student studying psychology.
SAGAL: Oh, really? So are you going to, like, help people with their problems?
YAMAS: Well, I don't know if I'm going to keep it as my major actually, but...
YAMAS: But I am going to be studying Buddhism in India this fall, so..
SAGAL: Oh, that's fun.
SAGAL: And what does one do with a degree in Buddhism?
YAMAS: I guess you meditate, really.
SAGAL: Yeah, sounds like a life.
SAGAL: Well, Chris, it's great to have you with us. You're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Christopher's topic?
KURTIS: Money, it's a gas.
SAGAL: Does anybody remember money? You know, we got PayPal, we got credit cards, we got barter, but we used to have money, and the people who make money want it to be more interesting so that we fall in love with money again. Our panelists are going to tell you three stories of a government effort to make cash cool again. Guess the true story, you'll win Carl's voice on your home answering machine or voicemail. Are you ready to play?
YAMAS: Yeah, let's do it.
SAGAL: Let's hear first from Roy Blount, Jr.
ROY BLOUNT JR.: Who would think that money would ever need aromatic enhancement? Down through the ages, the intrinsic attraction of cold, hard cash has been such that if it smelled like cat pee, people would take it.
JR.: But in today's brave new digital world, cash, and I mean actual, fully negotiable smackers, needs sweetening, at least in Canada. Two years ago, the Canadian treasury released a new $100 bill. It's made of some sort of plastic. But Canada went a step further, or so it would seem because ever since the new banknotes appeared, Canadians have been swearing that they, the banknotes I mean, smell like maple syrup.
JR.: Of course the Canadian government denies having added any fragrance at all. What treasury wants to admit having printed legal tender that's so insecure it has to be perfumed?
JR.: But hundreds of letters keep coming in to the Bank of Canada. One of my bills has lost its scent, wrote one worried Canadian. Is it still good?
SAGAL: Maple syrup money from Roy Blount, Jr. Your next story of what's current in currency comes from Amy Dickinson.
AMY DICKINSON: Lately, Queen Elizabeth's face hasn't been in enough British pockets, at least that's the conclusion of the British treasury. Use of the coin of the realm has decreased 30 percent in the last year alone, and this has currency experts worried. Queen Elizabeth's profile appears on every English pence, shilling and pound.
After discussing how to save their unused currency, it was decided that the queen had to go. So off with her head. But who or what would replace her? Iconic English images were considered: a sprig of heather; a Corgi dog; an uncorrected overbite.
DICKINSON: Fortunately, the chancellor of the exchequer knows who really controls any country's money supply, 13-year-old girls. His own tween daughter Gwendolyn made the suggestion that might save the world's most famous currency: Replace Queen Elizabeth's face with that of the mega-famous boy band One Direction.
DICKINSON: So people, this summer, England will roll out its first new money in over 800 years featuring the famous mop-top faces of this century's answer to The Beatles, and they are so money.
SAGAL: Ooh, One Direction, their faces on British currency.
SAGAL: Your last story of mo money, possibly with mo problems, comes from Ken Jennings.
KEN JENNINGS: Meet the Treasury Department's new official mascot for the U.S. dollar: Perry the Pyramid, a cartoon version of the glowing eye atop a pyramid thing on the back of the one-dollar bill. But surprisingly, a life-size version of a creepy 18th-century Masonic symbol has not been a popular choice.
JENNINGS: We see Perry as a living piece of history, says a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. But it's true that children haven't taken to him the way we hoped. It's a disaster, says Randall Jenkins, who appears at D.C. area schools dressed as Perry. I go into a kindergarten wearing the pyramid costume, and the kids are just terrified.
JENNINGS: I've had tears, screaming fits. One little man just started punching me in the eye part of the costume as hard as he could.
JENNINGS: That's where my face goes. The Treasury is scrambling to redesign Perry, even bringing in the makers of TV's "My Little Pony" to soften his hard lines and glowering stare. The new Perry will have a cuter, twinklier eye with long lashes and might even carry a skateboard. But if a revamped dollar still makes kids holler, it might just be time for Perry to cash out.
SAGAL: All right.
SAGAL: Here are three ways in which some government tried, intentionally or not, to make their money interesting. From Roy Blount, Jr., the Canadian $100 bill smelling like maple syrup, that most Canadian of fragrances. From Amy Dickinson, the British government considering putting One Direction, the boy band, on their currency. Or from Ken Jennings, Perry the Pyramid, a walking, talking, terrifying one-eyed pyramid to get kids interested in currency.
SAGAL: Which of these is the real story of currency in the news?
YAMAS: Well, I really hope it's not One Direction.
YAMAS: You know, I dated a lovely Canadian girl, and I have many Canadian friends, and I know they're a bunch of maple-loving loonies. So I'm going to go with A.
SAGAL: You're going to go with Roy's story of the maple-syrup-smelling $100 bill.
YAMAS: You got it.
SAGAL: All right. Well, we actually spoke to the reporter who uncovered this story.
DEAN BEEBY: Some people said if you rubbed our new currency, it has this scent of maple syrup.
SAGAL: Very good. That was Dean Beeby, a Canadian press reporter who's been obeying the old journalist mantra follow the syrup-scented money. Congratulations. You got it right, Chris.
YAMAS: Thank you.
SAGAL: Roy had the real story. You earned a point for him, and you've won our prize. Carl Kasell will record the greeting on your home voicemail. Well done.
YAMAS: Thank you.
SAGAL: Thanks for playing with us.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) Maple syrup time, maple syrup time... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.