Terry O'Shaughnessy

Hudson

Our penniless future

With the penny retired this week, what’s going to happen to all those sayings? “A penny for your thoughts?” is just not the same if you offer a nickel for them.

“Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves” is just plain boring if you put “nickels” there instead (though taking care of your dimes so your dollars take care of themselves is better).

I suppose the list could go on and on.

“In for a penny, in for a pound,” “penny ante,” and “they didn’t have two pennies to rub together” must now go the way of the dodo.

Because it’s funny — even in our age of easy credit (the news last night cited yet again the big personal debt loads we carry now), the penny has kept its spot for centuries as the thing we use to measure all things financial.

“Penny wise and pound foolish” will no longer have any meaning, after all.

And what will we call “penny pinchers”? “Nickel nudgers”? “Quarter kickers”? Or maybe “loonie lungers”?

As for “spending a penny,” it’s just a whole other world of strange when you use other coinage. And what about Henny Penny who thought the sky was falling? It wasn’t, but she’ll have to deal with this new calamity now.

The saying I’ll miss the most, though, is “red cent.”

“I wouldn’t give them one red cent for that!” carries a pretty good punch. In fact, the beauty of it was always that you could go one step further and use capital letters for emphasis. “I wouldn’t give them ONE RED CENT for that piece of junk” has a nice volume. And the sister phrase: “they’re not getting a penny more from me” allowed for a certain release of emotion. And we’ll miss it.

So off we head to our penniless future.

In fact, come to think of it, even the phrase “penniless” will have to go. And there can be no replacement, really. After all, “I’m loonieless” won’t work nearly as well. And “I’m dimeless” may evoke other scenarios.

So what about our nickel? Our new smallest coin that must now rise to the occasion. Because let’s face it, our penny made itself a hard act to follow. The only thing I can think of so far is that “nickel” rhymes with “pickle.”

I suppose it’s a start.

 

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