The Corner

Re: My Two Cents Worth

Peter: The coin that was got rid of by Mrs. Thatcher 20 years ago was not a

half-penny, it was a half-p. It was created at the same time as the rest of

the wretched decimal coinage in Britain, in 1971, and had no existence prior

to that.

Once the decision had been made to stick with the pound as the basic unit of

the new currency, the problem arose that the smallest unit in the new

system — the “new penny,” universally referred to as the “p” (pronounced

“pee”) — would be worth 2.4 of the old penny, and even 1.2 of the old

halfpenny (pronounced “ha’penny”). The decision was made, therefore, to

bring in the new system with a half-p, worth 1.2 old pennies. It proved to

be a nuisance, though; banks dropped it, rounding everything to the p (up or

down, according to their own advantage); and after a few years it was

scrapped. Nobody missed it because nobody liked it, and Mrs. Thatcher did

the right thing.

The right thing, but not the Right thing — that would have been to junk the

horrible Euro-ist decimal system altogether and restore pounds, shillings,

and pence.

To the end of his life — he died in 1984 — my father clung to the old

names, referring to one pound fifty p as “thirty bob.”

(The “thirty-seven and a half guineas” in my previous posting did not

survive translation to the web. It would have been 39 pounds 7 shillings

and sixpence.)

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