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Old 08-11-2019, 10:19 AM
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Explain English Money to Me


So I’m watching Peaky Blinders, and I have no idea how British money works. How much is a 1921 pound worth in modern dollars? Also, how many pounds in a Guinea. or a Sovereign?
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Old 08-11-2019, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Horatio Hellpop View Post
So I’m watching Peaky Blinders, and I have no idea how British money works. How much is a 1921 pound worth in modern dollars? Also, how many pounds in a Guinea. or a Sovereign?
At that time there were 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound. A sovereign is a name of a gold coin worth a pound. A guinea was originally a gold coin worth a pound, but as the price of gold and silver fluctuated, this changed. By the time you're speaking of, there were essentially no guinea coins. It was an amount worth 21 shillings Items sometimes had prices listed as guineas to make them seem not so expensive. An item costing 100 guineas cost not 100 pounds but 105 pounds.

In 1921 a pound was worth a bit less than $4 US which adjusted for in flation is about $52 today.
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Old 08-11-2019, 10:51 AM
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"Guineas" were used to denote supposedly luxury/high quality goods and services, so, professional fees (lawyers, doctors, architects and so on), posh(or would-be posh) clothes, cars, radio sets and gramophones, etc.
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Old 08-11-2019, 11:05 AM
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£1 in 1921 is equivalent in purchasing power to about £48.55, which is around $58.44. These calculations are distorted by different ways of calculating inflation. My preferred method is to compare the value of an hour's labour: In the 1920's a labourer would earn around £2 (40 shillings, or 480 pence)for a 60 hour week, compared to £400 (around £340 nett) today for 40 hours.

There are 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings in a Pound and a Guinea is 21 shillings. Even today you might hear of racehorses being auctioned in Guineas.

A Sovereign is a gold coin with a face value of £1.00 - naturally, it would have a far higher intrinsic value. They are still made today as commemorative coins.

Slang terms for coins:
Farthing - a quarter of a penny
Ha'penny - half a penny
Thruppence - three pence
tanner - sixpence
Bob - shilling (a 20th of a Pound)
Half a Crown - two shillings and sixpence. (An eighth of a Pound)
Tenner (a note) - Ten shillings
Fiver - five pounds (a large white note, rarely seen by ordinary workers)

Last edited by bob++; 08-11-2019 at 11:07 AM.
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Old 08-11-2019, 11:31 AM
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Thanks all!
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Old 08-11-2019, 12:21 PM
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At that time there were 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound. A sovereign is a name of a gold coin worth a pound.
And, bear in mind that "at that time" is the key here -- modern English money doesn't work this way.

In 1971, England instituted decimalization -- they abolished the shilling, and subdivided the pound into 100 pence.
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Old 08-11-2019, 12:40 PM
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Slang terms for coins:
Farthing - a quarter of a penny
Ha'penny - half a penny
Thruppence - three pence
tanner - sixpence
Bob - shilling (a 20th of a Pound)
Half a Crown - two shillings and sixpence. (An eighth of a Pound)
Tenner (a note) - Ten shillings
Fiver - five pounds (a large white note, rarely seen by ordinary workers)
Five shillings being a crown. Two being a florin.
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Old 08-11-2019, 12:51 PM
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There are 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings in a Pound and a Guinea is 21 shillings. Even today you might hear of racehorses being auctioned in Guineas.
Would a miser be a Guinea Pig?
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Old 08-11-2019, 01:07 PM
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Would a miser be a Guinea Pig?
Is there a portmanteau word that combines “groan” and “applause”?
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Old 08-11-2019, 01:44 PM
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The pound/shilling/penny system was surprisingly durable. It was adopted in Anglo-Saxon times, modeled on the French system established by Charlemagne.
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The livre was established by Charlemagne as a unit of account equal to one pound of silver. It was subdivided into 20 sous (also sols), each of 12 deniers. The word livre came from the Latin word libra, a Roman unit of weight, and the denier comes from the Roman denarius. This system and the denier itself served as the model for many of Europe's currencies, including the British pound, Italian lira, Spanish dinero and the Portuguese dinheiro.
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Old 08-11-2019, 02:31 PM
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There are 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings in a Pound and a Guinea is 21 shillings. Even today you might hear of racehorses being auctioned in Guineas.
I had no idea ! I thought that bit of shitting on the proles had been strictly Victorian. Do they say Guineas for the "classism" of it but really it's actually Pounds, or do they still really add the one shilling ?
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Old 08-11-2019, 02:42 PM
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I had no idea ! I thought that bit of shitting on the proles had been strictly Victorian. Do they say Guineas for the "classism" of it but really it's actually Pounds, or do they still really add the one shilling ?
They still added the extra shilling the last time I was in England hmmm '99 I think it was.
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Old 08-11-2019, 03:47 PM
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I had no idea ! I thought that bit of shitting on the proles had been strictly Victorian. Do they say Guineas for the "classism" of it but really it's actually Pounds, or do they still really add the one shilling ?
Horse-racing in the UK still uses furlongs as a unit of length, so it is quite traditional in general. In the case of horse auctions - the auctioneer takes the extra shilling as commission.
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Old 08-11-2019, 04:04 PM
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Slang terms for coins
Couple of extras, which would have been around at the time Peaky Blinders is set:

It wasn't unknown for people to talk about "half a dollar" (meaning half a crown, since at that time a dollar was roughly the same value as five shillings)

The threepenny bit (before the introduction of the multi-sided copper coin in the 1930s) was known as a "joey" or (because it still had some silver in it) a "silver joey" (my mother still had a couple to put in the Christmas pudding in the 1950s).
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Old 08-11-2019, 04:13 PM
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One of the cute things about decimalization was that, as you'll note, a shilling being a twentieth of a pound meant that it was exactly equal to five "new pence", and two shillings was the same as ten. So nobody bothered to recall those coins, and up to a couple of decades later you would still regularly see one-shilling and two-shilling coins in your change, which were understood to be exactly equal to 5p and 10p. This lasted until a currency redesign in the early nineties, when everything shrank (presumably to match the 20p coin which was introduced some time in the 80s, and always seemed bizarrely titchy next to an older 5p)
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Old 08-11-2019, 04:40 PM
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Couple of extras, which would have been around at the time Peaky Blinders is set:

It wasn't unknown for people to talk about "half a dollar" (meaning half a crown, since at that time a dollar was roughly the same value as five shillings)
The 'Dollar' in question was not the American dollar but the Spanish Dollar
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It goes back to the Napoleonic Wars. Britain was short of gold and silver coinage because most of it was used to finance the War abroad. Spanish dollars were imported to fill the gap and given the nominal value of 5 shillings, although, despite being about the same size they were actually worth a little less in terms of silver content. Hence, 5/- was a dollar and 2/6 as a half-dollar.
https://english.stackexchange.com/qu...currency-slang
When I was a teenager, a Pound was worth £2.40. This meant that a US cent and a UK penny were equivalent in value. Would that they were today.

A 'Crown' or five-shilling coin was far too large to be in general use, and I have never heard it being used as a named coin. Five bob or even two half-crowns, yes, but not a 'Crown'.

Last edited by bob++; 08-11-2019 at 04:43 PM.
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Old 08-11-2019, 07:22 PM
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The threepenny bit (before the introduction of the multi-sided copper coin in the 1930s) was known as a "joey" or (because it still had some silver in it) a "silver joey" (my mother still had a couple to put in the Christmas pudding in the 1950s).
There was also, at one time, a fourpenny bit with the alternate name of "groat".

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When I was a teenager, a Pound was worth £2.40. This meant that a US cent and a UK penny were equivalent in value. Would that they were today.
If the pound goes down in value much more, the pence will be the same value as the cent. Just give it some time (and maybe a Brexit).
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Old 08-11-2019, 08:33 PM
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When I was a teenager, a Pound was worth £2.40.
I'm confused; what does this mean? Doesn't the £ indicate British pounds? It sounds like you're saying a pound was worth 2.4 pounds.
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Old 08-11-2019, 08:40 PM
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I'm confused; what does this mean? Doesn't the £ indicate British pounds? It sounds like you're saying a pound was worth 2.4 pounds.
It's a typo. He means $2.40.
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Old 08-11-2019, 08:45 PM
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I'm confused; what does this mean? Doesn't the £ indicate British pounds? It sounds like you're saying a pound was worth 2.4 pounds.
I believe he's saying that because of inflation and the devaluing of the currency's buying power, the buying power of one pound sterling in 19XX is equivalent to the buying power of 2.4 pounds sterling today.
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Old 08-11-2019, 09:20 PM
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No, Colibri has the right answer there. In the 60s and 70s there was a fixed exchange rate between the pound and dollar which was £1 = $2.40.
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Old 08-11-2019, 09:36 PM
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As an aside (mild hijack), I found it surprisingly easy to shift from US$ to English money. Back in 1970 I spend a month in Nigeria, where at that time all the money was pounds, shillings, and pence. It took only a matter of a few days before I was thinking in English monetary terms. And then, upon returning to the US, I found myself automatically converting from US money to English money to see how much things really cost.
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Old 08-11-2019, 09:50 PM
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Horse-racing in the UK still uses furlongs as a unit of length, so it is quite traditional in general. In the case of horse auctions - the auctioneer takes the extra shilling as commission.
Far out ! Or, possibly, far back
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Old 08-12-2019, 05:29 AM
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A three-pence coin was also a 'threppeny bender' and a sixpence 'spratt' as in something costing half a crown was 2/6 therefore 'two and a spratt'

There were crown coins, I had a few as a kid. They were probably commemorative, coronation possibly, but still exchangeable for face value.
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Old 08-12-2019, 05:41 AM
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I'm so old that I remember having a farthing (had a picture of a wren on it, I think) and a 'threepenny bit' (yellow with funny straight sides.)
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Old 08-12-2019, 05:45 AM
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I'm so old that I remember having a farthing (had a picture of a wren on it, I think) and a 'threepenny bit' (yellow with funny straight sides.)
Farthings did indeed have a wren on them. I regularly received pocket money in farthings and ha'penies.
You could buy a 'Black Jack' (chewy sweet) for a farthing each.
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:20 AM
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Slang terms for coins:
Farthing - a quarter of a penny
Ha'penny - half a penny
Thruppence - three pence
tanner - sixpence
Bob - shilling (a 20th of a Pound)
Half a Crown - two shillings and sixpence. (An eighth of a Pound)
Tenner (a note) - Ten shillings
Fiver - five pounds (a large white note, rarely seen by ordinary workers)
What about "Tuppence"?

Agatha Christie had a detective character whose nickname was Tuppence. In one book, one of the clues that a letter supposedly from her was a forgery was the fact that the forger had spelled the signature as "Twopence" rather than "Tuppence."
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:42 AM
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What about "Tuppence"?

Agatha Christie had a detective character whose nickname was Tuppence. In one book, one of the clues that a letter supposedly from her was a forgery was the fact that the forger had spelled the signature as "Twopence" rather than "Tuppence."
Also, from Mary Poppins - "Feed the birds, tuppence a bag"

I also made a mistake - A 'tenner' was always £10. Ten shillings was a 'ten bob note' or 'arf a bar'

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Old 08-12-2019, 09:19 AM
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I had at some point gotten the idea that a 'bob' was, post-decimalization, used for a pound. Was I wrong, or did it, in fact, shift like that?
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Old 08-12-2019, 09:23 AM
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I had at some point gotten the idea that a 'bob' was, post-decimalization, used for a pound. Was I wrong, or did it, in fact, shift like that?
You were wrong. I've never heard "bob" used to mean a pound. It was always a shilling.
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Old 08-12-2019, 09:31 AM
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I wonder where my brain took that wrong turn, then...
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Old 08-12-2019, 09:34 AM
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No, Colibri has the right answer there. In the 60s and 70s there was a fixed exchange rate between the pound and dollar which was £1 = $2.40.
Yes - that's exactly what I meant to say. So since there were 240 pennies in a £1, a British penny was equal to a US cent. It follows that 2 bob, would have been roughly equal to a quarter (actually 24¢).

Last edited by bob++; 08-12-2019 at 09:38 AM.
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Old 08-12-2019, 10:32 AM
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Another slang term is 'quid' equal to a pound. On my trip to the UK recently I noticed that it's the same in the singular and plural - 1 quid, 2 quid, 3 quid, et cetera. I could have misheard though.
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Old 08-12-2019, 11:12 AM
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Another slang term is 'quid' equal to a pound. On my trip to the UK recently I noticed that it's the same in the singular and plural - 1 quid, 2 quid, 3 quid, et cetera. I could have misheard though.
That is correct. The expected plural, 'quids', is not used. Also it is not uncommon to hear the singular 'pound' used in a similar way as in "ere mate, that dodgy motor is gonna cost you five hundred pound", so maybe that is why we do the same with the word quid.
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Old 08-12-2019, 12:08 PM
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I'm so old that I remember having a farthing (had a picture of a wren on it, I think) and a 'threepenny bit' (yellow with funny straight sides.)
I remember them too, although farthings were no longer legal tender by the time I might have used any!There were still some lying about the house though.
But I do happen to have a drawer with maybe a couple of quid's worth of old currency in it (mainly kept by my late mother for no particular purpose and found when I had to clear the house). Thrupennies are probably smaller than you remember them being - I was slightly surprised when I just looked at one...
And, for no particular reason, I just decided to weigh a shilling's worth of pennies and found that 12 fairly well worn pennies weigh 109 grams, or 3.84 oz. A real weight in your pocket if you had more than a few, and may well help to explain the number of times the pockets n my shorts needed repaired when i was growing up in the 60s!

Most of what I have is coppers (pennies and ha'pennies, at least one farthing) but also some silver; the odd thrupennny bit, sixpences, a florin or two, some half crowns and several commorative crowns (although those are all post-decimal)
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Old 08-12-2019, 12:24 PM
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Another slang term is 'quid' equal to a pound. On my trip to the UK recently I noticed that it's the same in the singular and plural - 1 quid, 2 quid, 3 quid, et cetera. I could have misheard though.
It's also used far more often than pounds. Pounds is used in formal contexts, so it's what you'll hear on the news, but in real life it's more common to use quid. And pennies are similarly nearly always referred to as p. 2p, not two pence.

That's for current money, not pre-decimalisation, where a penny was d, a shilling was s and a pound was l. LSD, going from highest to lowest (libra, solidus, denarius). You can still see it on the backs of, say, old secondhand books - 2s 4d, for example.

You very occasionally still get an old sixpence given to you in change because it's the same size as a modern 5p coin. Very, very occasionally, but it's happened to me at least three times.

@MrAtoz - I think the money term tuppence was usually still spelt twopence. Tuppence's name wasn't spelt that way, but that's why the person made that mistake. Thruppence was the pronunciation of threepence, but usually still written as threepence, and ha'penny (said like hay-pny) was usually spelt halfpenny. They weren't exactly slang, because they were universal across classes.

There are probably counter-examples where writers are approximating the sounds of real speech but in general, it's just the name Mainwaring, which is pronounced mannering but doesn't change its spelling.
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Old 08-12-2019, 12:48 PM
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Also it is not uncommon to hear the singular 'pound' used in a similar way as in "ere mate, that dodgy motor is gonna cost you five hundred pound", so maybe that is why we do the same with the word quid.
Or indeed "nicker".

And then there are all the slang terms for different quantities of pounds, like "monkey", "pony" and so on (though might that be a purely London thing).
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Old 08-12-2019, 01:49 PM
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Or indeed "nicker".

And then there are all the slang terms for different quantities of pounds, like "monkey", "pony" and so on (though might that be a purely London thing).
Most of the Cockney money terms are obsolete now or only used in an ironic way. It's a shame, really, they're beautiful.
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Old 08-12-2019, 02:41 PM
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That is correct. The expected plural, 'quids', is not used. Also it is not uncommon to hear the singular 'pound' used in a similar way as in "ere mate, that dodgy motor is gonna cost you five hundred pound", so maybe that is why we do the same with the word quid.
I better be careful here - this may be a regional thing*. But back when there was any use for a single penny, you would here people use the plural when they were talking about one penny; as in "Have you got one pence? You're one pence short."

This adds nothing to the debate, but it's another example of imprecision about singular and plural when it comes to currency.

j

* - North west
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Old 08-12-2019, 03:16 PM
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One joke was that when the pound coin was introduced, someone suggested it be called a "Thatcher" - "because it's thick and brassy and thinks it's a sovereign."
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Old 08-12-2019, 03:25 PM
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I better be careful here - this may be a regional thing*. But back when there was any use for a single penny, you would here people use the plural when they were talking about one penny; as in "Have you got one pence? You're one pence short."

This adds nothing to the debate, but it's another example of imprecision about singular and plural when it comes to currency.

j

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No, they'd say you're one penny short.
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Old 08-12-2019, 03:49 PM
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No, they'd say you're one penny short.
As in, "a penny short of the full quid"?
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Old 08-12-2019, 04:08 PM
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As in, "a penny short of the full quid"?
Are you suggesting that SciFiSam is not the full shilling?
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Old 08-12-2019, 04:18 PM
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No, they'd say you're one penny short.
Mmm. Perhaps its regional, perhaps not. Try googling (in the quotes) "one pence" (nearly 100 000 hits) or "one pence coin". I'm not suggesting it's correct, just saying that it is (or was) used. Sloppily.

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Old 08-12-2019, 04:23 PM
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Here is a challenge for anyone interested. Simply add up a shopping list:

2 loaves of bread at 6d each
A dozen eggs at 1/6
1lb flour 8½d
1lb bacon 3/1
Ladies shoes 21/-

SPOILER:
£1/7/3½

Last edited by bob++; 08-12-2019 at 04:28 PM.
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Old 08-12-2019, 05:39 PM
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That was too easy....
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Old 08-12-2019, 06:00 PM
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Australia moved from a British style currency system to decimal [dollars /cents] a bit over 50 years ago. The pre-decimal slang was partly the same as we've read above plus some local terms. Plus we probably maintained our currency [ha!] on British decimal slang through TV shows like Minder and Porridge.

The only pre-decimal slang term that has survived the half century seems to be 'bob' for 10 cent units. You don't call a 10c piece 'a bob', but occasionally may still hear 'two bob' for a 20c piece, or a 'few bob' for vague less-than-a-dollar amounts.

Compared to this rich past there are very few slang terms in common use for the decimals. The only ones that might be generally understood are 'lobster' for a $20 note and 'pineapple' for $50 note, on account of their colours, and I don't think they are even widespread.
  #48  
Old 08-12-2019, 06:55 PM
Dewey Finn is offline
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Originally Posted by bob++ View Post
Here is a challenge for anyone interested. Simply add up a shopping list:

2 loaves of bread at 6d each
A dozen eggs at 1/6
1lb flour 8½d
1lb bacon 3/1
Ladies shoes 21/-

SPOILER:
£1/7/3½
My visits to the UK were all after decimalization, so I never had to deal with this, but for tourists at the time, it must have been a real pain. (And this was of course before credit cards were common, so visitors would have had to handle local currency.)
  #49  
Old 08-12-2019, 09:09 PM
SciFiSam is offline
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Originally Posted by Treppenwitz View Post
Mmm. Perhaps its regional, perhaps not. Try googling (in the quotes) "one pence" (nearly 100 000 hits) or "one pence coin". I'm not suggesting it's correct, just saying that it is (or was) used. Sloppily.

j
Yes, I'd say it's regional. Google won't really help since it'll come up with a lot more written sources, and in writing people often write pence, because it's the formal term. Also generally people say "a penny," not "one penny." Or 1p. My region is the South-East, so odds are good the terms are a bit different to your area.

ETA: I see what you mean about pence being used as a singular, though. Yeah, I have heard that, just not as often as penny.

Last edited by SciFiSam; 08-12-2019 at 09:12 PM.
  #50  
Old 08-12-2019, 10:21 PM
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MEBuckner is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob++ View Post
Slang terms for coins:
Farthing - a quarter of a penny
Super nit-picky correction, but farthing wasn't really "slang"; that was the official name for the denomination and the word "FARTHING" was actually spelled out on the coins--note that it didn't actually say anything like "1/4 of a penny" (or "1/960 of a pound") anywhere on the farthing coin. Similarly, U.S. dimes actually have the words "ONE DIME" on them, but they don't say "ten cents", or have the Arabic numerals "10" anywhere on them (unless they happened to have been minted in 2010 or something like that), as we Americans (like our British forebears) are kind of bloody-minded about designing money that doesn't confuse the hell out of anybody who isn't already intimately familiar with it.
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