Out on a limb

out on a limb




This month’s installment of famous phrase origins is all about loose change!



penny thoughtNowadays, you wouldn’t think very hard for this little money.

Penny for your thoughts – Back in 1546, John Heywood published a book of proverbs, among them is this famous phrase used by a person seeing someone else lost in deep thought.  The exact reason for the amount  (one penny) is speculation, but Heywood’s annual “salary” back then was 10 marks, the equivalent of 240 pennies.  Thus Heywood earned 20 pennies per month, suggesting a penny was quite valuable and therefore worth someone offering up their most private thoughts.


2 centsPhony as a…wait a second, these things were for real!

Put my two cents in – originates from the older “put my two bits in” and has its origin in the game of poker.  When playing poker, you have to make a small bet before the cards are dealt, called an “ante”, to begin playing the hand.  The phrase draws the analogy to the poker ante (two bits) which allows you to enter (play) the game.  You can put your two cents in when you want to enter a conversation.


2 nickelsSurprising I could even afford pockets!

Don’t have two nickels to rub together – This one has been tough to pin down exactly when it started, but it relates to the common practice of keeping change in your pockets and the noise made as the coins bang together.  The phrase refers to a person so down on their luck that they didn’t even have two nickels to stick in their pocket.


drop dimeFunny how phones used the smallest possible coins and now use the largest!

Drop a dime – Usually associated with criminals “ratting” out other criminals, it harkens back to the 1960’s, where pay phones cost 10 cents to use.  The informer would drop a dime into the slot and call the police with his information.  The phrase has been shortened even further to simply “dropped dime”.  Of course, now he would have to add a quarter due to rate hikes since the 60’s.  That’s assuming you can even find one!


That’s it for this month.  Don’t spend all that knowledge in one place!


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