Saturday, March 22, 2008

Loose Change

Many of us have a change jar on our desk or on a shelf. When we empty our pockets, pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters clink into the jar to join their brethren. In time, they add up, so we wrap them in paper cylinders and take them to the bank to convert them to paper.

Over the years, a number of idioms have grown up based on small change.

• bad penny (to turn up like a): to show up at an event or a place where you are definitely not wanted.
• count your pennies: pay attention to small details if you want your affairs to be in order.
• in for a penny, in for a pound: a show of determination that no mattter what the cost, you are going to stay the course.
• not have a red cent: totally bankrupt. The red referred to the collar of copper used in the coin.
• not have two pennies to rub together: again, to be totally bankrupt.
• pennies from heaven: an unexpected benefit, probably a reflection of the biblical manna from heaven.
• penny dropped, (the): a thought finally impinged on one’s consciousness. Probably a reference to a slot machine or a gumball machine; the money drops and finally hits home.
• penny for your thoughts: an indirect way of saying, “what are you thinking about?”
• penny-pinching: being a most careful steward of your money; you hold it in a tight grip.
• penny saved is a penny earned: even small amounts begin to add up if you spend nothing as money comes in.
• penny wise and pound foolish: you pay attention to small monetary matters, but are careless about larger expenses.
• pretty penny, (that’ll cost you a): the price will be high.
• put in my two cents’ worth: give your opinion. It has apparent elements of self-deprecation, but may actually represent false modesty.
• don’t take any wooden nickels: don’t let yourself be cheated or scammed; real nickels are metal.
• nickel and dime someone: to add on small charges that, in time, begin to be significant or, at least, annoying.
• not worth a plugged nickel: worthless. A plug was a hole made in a coin and filled with a baser metal. Defaced currency would not be accepted as legal tender.
• dime a dozen, a: cheap and readily available. Each item would cost less than a cent.
• drop the dime: to betray someone. A dime was the price of a pay-phone call to the local police precinct.
• get off the dime: to spring into action, especially after a period of lethargy.
• stop/turn on a dime: to come to a halt/change direction very quickly.

SIDEBAR: The United States Mint

SIDEBAR: Market Value of American Coins

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