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  1. #1
    Prophet's Avatar
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    Oct 2006

    Origins of Phrases

    [size=12pt]Meanings and Origins of Phrases[/size]


    Not worth a plugged nickel




    Plugs are the holes made in coins, which is then filled with a cheaper metal. Coins so tampered with are no longer legal tender and are thus worthless if spotted. The phrase is, of course, American. Before 'plugged nickels' there were 'plugged quarters' and 'plugged dimes'. The various versions of the phrase appear in the 1880s. The nickel, being a lower denomination coin, lends itself better than quarters and dimes to a phrase expressing worthlessness. Oddly though, the lowest denomination coin is the cent and the phrase 'not worth a plugged cent' doesn't appear until later. The earliest I've found for that is 1908.

    [For those not familiar with US coinage; a quarter is 25 cents, a dime is 10 cents and a nickel is 5 cents.]

    The earliest of any version of the phrase that I can find is from The Daily Nebraska State Journal, 14th September 1883. This indicates the illegitimate nature of plugged coins:

    "No," said a Philadelphia conductor, "I never attempt to pass a plugged quarter on a man unless he's got his Sunday girl with him. Then he's afraid she'll think him mean if he get's mad.
    Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. Mark Twain

  2. #2
    VikingMike's Avatar
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    Re: Origins of Phrases

    Great link, I love this one, thanks P.

    Saved by the bell
    I've always been fascinated with what I thought was the origin (people saved from being buried alive by ringing a bell with a string inside the coffin), but according to this site...
    There's no evidence to show that these coffins were ever put to use though...
    So I'll stick with my original thought:
    Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood. - H.L. Mencken

    Come from the land of the ice and snow...

  3. #3
    tgorsegner's Avatar
    tgorsegner is offline Coordinator
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    Sep 2007

    Re: Origins of Phrases

    what happens if you don't have any of this?

    You have to masturbate instead of drawing a caveman.
    So.....this is how euphemisms are born.

    How long before someone in the 'cheer up' thread says he's going to go draw a caveman?

    you did ask how phrases originate....

    VikesFan787, Thanks for the awesome sig!

  4. #4
    cogitans is offline Jersey Retired
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    Jan 2006

    Re: Origins of Phrases

    Thanks to PPE for the sig.

  5. #5
    The Dropper's Avatar
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    Aug 2006
    Portland, Ore.

    Re: Origins of Phrases

    Here is one from the list Prophet provided:
    At loggerheads


    In dispute with.


    Of UK origin. The word 'loggerhead' is now not much used apart from in this odd phrase, and as a name - of a species of turtle, a bird and as a placename. It had two, now archaic, meanings but it isn't clear which is the source of the phrase. One meaning is 'a stupid person - a blockhead'. Shakespeare used it with that meaning in Love's Labours Lost, 1588:

    "Ah you whoreson logger-head, you were borne to doe me shame."

    It is also recorded as 'an iron instrument with a long handle used for melting pitch and for heating liquids'. This could also be what's referred to in 'at loggerheads'.

    The first use of the phrase known in print is in Francis Kirkman's, The English Rogue, 1680:

    "They frequently quarrell'd about their Sicilian wenches, and indeed..they be worth the going to Logger-heads for."

    Loggerheads is also a small town in Staffordshire - a gift for jokers - 'Are you going on holiday this year? Yes, I'll be having a fortnight at Loggerheads with the wife'.

    See other phrases and sayings from Shakespeare.
    But actually I know it to be thus:

    At Loggerheads

    Meaning Arguing or engaging in a heated dispute.

    In colonial America, the fine citizens of the Atlantic coast were known to drink (and distill) copious amounts of rum. Unfortunately, the rum back in those days often tasted terrible due to lack of sophistication in the distillation process and poor ingredients. Thus, the colonists invented a drink to mask the flavor. The drink consisted of rum, milk, and molasses. The old colonial pubs would keep loggerheads (iron rods with an iron ball on the end) with the ball ends in the fire to keep them red hot. Then the patrons would take the loggerheads and stick them inside the drinks to caramelize the molasses and heat the milk. When this was done, the drink would do a little "BLOOP," and the drink thus came to be known as a Rum Flip.

    After too many rum flips and political arguments regarding their situation under the British crown, some of the colonists would get a little rowdy. The political discussions would then turn decidedly more violent as the patrons would start fighting with loggerheads being the weapon of choice. So it was that we came to the expression, when two people were arguing intensely, to say, "They were at loggerheads."

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