I had meant to post this when I saw it at Wordorigins.org, but now a correspondent has reminded me, so here it is: last year’s 50 pence coin celebrating the 250th anniversary of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language. I particularly like the fact that it includes the etymology of fifty; surely this is the only coin that features an etymology! (You can see another view of the coin here and read about it at the Wikipedia entry for the 50-pence coin.) Thanks, Glyn!


  1. Surely they should have minted a 250p coin for this purpose? 😛

  2. a 250p coin
    You mean a ha’fiver? (I think that’s pronounced “hay fever.”)

  3. xiaolongnu says

    Gives new meaning to the semi-etymological saying “to coin a phrase.” In this case perhaps it should be “to phrase a coin.”

  4. For some reason I am reminded of Thomas Hobbes: “Words are wise men’s counters, they are the money of fools.”

  5. Vivek Khadpekar says

    When I first went to the UK in 1974, they were still struggling to get accustomed to the then new metric currency (in India we’d already gone metric two decades earlier). For innocents like me matters were not made any easier by people using terms like “bob” and “crown”, and the difficulty of deciding when a “penny” meant 1/100 pound and when it meant 1/240. What I remember with particular affection is that there was also a half-penny (new) coin, which effectively meant that the pound was legally divisible into 200 parts. That’s true British genius for you!
    Wonder if those “new” 1/2-p coins are still around.

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