More on money

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Following on from my previous post on money, it occurred to me that 1½d was almost always pronounced three ha’pence, and less often a penny ha’penny while 1½p was always one and a half pence. The abbreviation for the old penny was d, standing for the Latin denarius, just as s stood not for shilling but solidus, and £ for libra. We have kept the pound symbol, but substituted p for the penny. As a result, its most frequent pronunciation is /piː/. Does any other nation abbreviate one of its major currency units to its first letter?

Apparently oddly, we often hear about a one pence piece. I’ve even been told quite firmly that the coin says ‘one new pence’ or more recently ‘one pence’ on it. No it doesn’t: it says either ‘one penny’ or (on the coins dated for the first few years after 1971) ‘one new penny’. However, I was once told that shortly after decimalization, a sign appeared in the Ladies toilets in Harrod’s store, that said ‘Please use one new pence pieces’ (the cost of ‘spending a penny’ had now rocketed by 240% overnight!). When a customer remonstrated with the attendant that it ought to have said ‘Please use one new penny pieces’, the reply was that /ɪts ˈwɜːf ˈtuː ən ˈɑːf jə ˈnoʊ/.

One Comment

  1. Very interresting to see how words become obsolete. Besides, these were supposed to be “content” words (as opposed to “structural” words). So the dichotomy which says words like nouns, adjectives , full verbs etc. do not have weak forms but words like prepositions, auxilairies etc. can have both, weak or strong, does not apply here

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