In for a Penny……

I saw a headline in the news this week that they are thinking of doing away with our Penny.

pennyMy first thought was that things priced at 99p would go up to £1 as no-one would be able to give a penny in change. The thing is, I can’t remember the last time anything went up by just one penny, it’s more like increments of 5 or 10 pence, if not more.

Us Brits have had two different pennies thanks to decimalisation in February 1971. You needed 240 of the old ones to make a pound, but we had some real character coinage in those days: farthing, ha’penny, penny obviously, thruppenny bit, tanner or sixpenny bit, shilling or bob, florin or two bob bit, half crown worth 2 shillings and sixpence and crown worth five shillings. A half sovereign was worth ten shillings, a sovereign a pound, and guinea one pound and one shilling. Apparently there were double sovereigns (£2) and quintuplet sovereigns (£5) too.

coinsPictured: farthing thru sovereign

I don’t remember farthings, crowns or sovereigns being in circulation when I was a young child though the former was withdrawn in 1960 and the crown last minted in 1965. Since decimalisation, crowns today are produced to mark special occasions like The Queen’s Jubilee, or a Royal Wedding, but now at a value of FIVE POUNDS or more, not the five bob (25p) of yesteryear.

Inflation at its best, that.

Everyone is counting the pennies these days though, and several sayings spring to mind here, and I can by no means list them all.

Shoppers might be penny-pinching (don’t want to spend unless absolutely necessary or constantly shopping around for the best prices) , or penny-wise and pound-foolish (refers to a person who will go to great pains to save a few pence here and there, but think nothing of spending a large sum on something frivolous or unnecessary) .

The saying ‘Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’ would technically become obsolete as there would literally be no pennies to look after. I suppose the idea all those years ago had been that you always spent a penny less than a pound rather than one more, and the unspent pennies soon mounted up. It’s a logical thought, but certainly doesn’t work in practice these days.

To “spend a penny” in British idiom means to urinate. I remember the big cumbersome devices on public lavatory doors where you dropped in your (old) penny to gain access. I had to stand on tip toe to reach, and it always seemed to be my luck that the loo was either filthy, blocked, or had no toilet paper, shiny or otherwise, so I wouldn’t use them at all. According to WIKI, the first recorded charge of a penny for use of a toilet was at The Great Exhibition of 1851. In some places today, it’ll cost you 20p for the privilege of using a loo but believe me, sometimes there’s not much difference!

Find a penny, pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck.” I remember this as Find a Pin, but vividly recall a day when hubby and I were desperate for money and needed just one more penny to buy a newspaper as it was Job Night. We emptied all of our pockets, lifted the car mats, rummaged around under the seats and in the glove compartment all to no avail, then I opened the car door and found 5p in the gutter! As it turned out, a job I subsequently applied for granted me an interview.

Other informal phrases include “a pretty penny” when referring to a considerable sum of money, and “when the penny drops” used when somebody finally understands something.

The first known record of the phrase “a penny for your thoughts” can be found in a 1547 collection of contemporary English language phrases compiled by John Heywood called A dialogue conteinying the nomber in effect of all the proverbes in the Englishe tongue “.

Thank you WIKI for that, though somehow I don’t think I’ll be borrowing it from the local library.

Of course we’re not the only country to have the Penny. New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the US also refer to them as a unit of currency less than a dollar. (Patrick Swayze asks Whoopi Goldberg for a penny to prove to Demi Moore that he is ‘there’ in Ghost) . Several countries have already dispensed with the penny, but round up or down accordingly when anyone pays in cash. Use of a bank card though and the charge is what is marked. As a former bank cashier and accounts supervisor, I always balanced literally ‘to the penny’ so would imagine balancing the books here could be a nightmare, and there must be some margin allowed in the rounding calculations process.

I am not embarrassed to pick a coin up off the pavement, provided some idiot hasn’t cemented the damn things in. I’ve also been lucky enough to find a few notes that way as well, and if I can’t pinpoint who it belongs to, my logic is simply that the original owner didn’t want it so threw it away. Besides, I believe in recycling.

This brings me nicely into another monetary item…………..

penny farthing bikeOr perhaps, not quite!

About pensitivity101

I am a retired number cruncher with a vivid imagination and wacky sense of humour which extends to short stories and poetry. I love to cook and am a bit of a dog whisperer as I get on better with them than people sometimes! In November 2020, we lost our beloved Maggie who adopted us as a 7 week old pup in March 2005. We decided to have a photo put on canvas as we had for her predecessor Barney. We now have three pictures of our fur babies on the wall as we found a snapshot of Kizzy, my GSD when Hubby and I first met so had hers done too. On February 24th 2022 we were blessed to find Maya, a 13 week old GSD pup who has made her own place in our hearts. You can follow our training methods, photos and her growth in my blog posts. From 2014 to 2017 'Home' was a 41 foot narrow boat where we made strong friendships both on and off the water. We were close to nature enjoying swan and duck families for neighbours, and it was a fascinating chapter in our lives. We now reside in a small bungalow on the Lincolnshire coast where we have forged new friendships and interests.
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3 Responses to In for a Penny……

  1. Dutch Bennie says:

    No pennies? Apart from the fact I’d have a lot less coins in my pocket, I can’t imagine life without it. I mean, sometimes when I get a penny change I just drop it into the charity box but if there were no pennies, what would I do then? And if they got rid of the penny, would the two pence soon follow? Who knows where this penny-pinching might stop!

    • Too right!! I also put my shrapnel in the Salvation Army bucket on market days. I have this funny feeling that ‘they’ intend to scrap all of our coins in the coming years and we shall be left with just notes, and they’re going to be plastic anyway! Somehow a Fiver for The Guy doesn’t have quite the same ring about it!
      Thanks for reading.

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