Posted by: travelrat | September 29, 2019

The Language of Coins

The other day, I was out for my morning walk, when I saw a pound coin lying on the pavement. So, naturally, I picked it up and put it in my pocket. My mind went back to when I was 13 years old, and found a pound note lying in the street. Like anyone else at the time would, I went to the Police Station with it. Sergeant Scott gravely recorded the details in a book, and told me I could have it if it wasn’t claimed in three months. I’m not sure, however, if it was actually claimed, or it finished up in the Police Christmas Dinner fund.

I suppose I could write something about how the value of our money has changed beyond recognition; how my Dad, born in 1913, used to say he was nearly 30 years old before he owned a £5 note …. or even when my friend Colin returned a fiver he’d borrowed from me some time ago, about which I’d forgotten. Even back in the 1960s, I’d have pursued him like the Eye of God followed Cain across the desert till I got it back.

Let’s, instead, go back to the early 1970s, when we changed over to decimal currency from the old pounds, shillings and pence. We would, henceforth, have 100 pence to a pound … called ‘New Pence’ (p) to distinguish them from old pence (d … from the Latin ‘denarius’= a small coin). However, it was many years until they dropped the ‘New’ … and, even now, folk are just transitioning from saying ’20 pee’ to ’20 pence’.

It’s a good system, but we lost something. Gone were the slang words we used for our coinage. No more coppers, tanners, or bobs. Australia had decimalised some years earlier, and thus lost their treys, zacs and deeners!

And, there’s been nothing to replace them. It’s just ’10 pence piece’ or whatever. Maybe this takes more time; Canada has the ‘loony’ (dollar coin) and ‘toony’ (2 dollar coin) but they’ve had those coins for much longer.

There was a suggestion that we should call our notes after the people portrayed on them. A £5 note would be a ‘Winnie’ (Winston Churchill), £10 would be a ‘Jane’ (Jane Austen) and £20 an ‘Adam’ (Adam Smith). But, they do change the pictures from time to time, so maybe it wouldn’t work?


  1. Further to the last, I’m informed that, sometimes, our notes are referred to as a ‘Lady Godiva’ (fiver) and an ‘Ayrton Senna’ (tenner)

  2. And what about a score (£20) A Pony (£25), a Ton (£100), a Monkey (£500), and a Grand (£1000).

    • Don’t use then that often. I rarely carry that much cash! 😀

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