Posted by ESC on October 22, 2002
In Reply to: Two Bits posted by James Briggs on October 22, 2002
: Today had this request from someone in the US - he
had a 'wgates' in his email address, but he's not THAT one. Can any one confirm/refute/clarify?
I can't. Thanks.
: "Do you know the etymology of "two bits". In the U.S., it means a quarter (the coin worth 25 cents, or a quarter of a dollar). My grandfather told me long ago that it derives from the archaic "piece of eight", a Spanish(?) coin that was scored into eight pie shaped bits. These could be broken off to make lesser denomination coin currency. If someone had two of the pieces (broken off a piece of eight) he would have two bits, or one quarter of the whole coin."
"Listening to America" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982) has some detailed about "bits": ".Being worth one-eighth of a Spanish peso or Spanish dollar, the original Spanish 'real' or 'bit' was worth 12 ½ cents. Not only was this bit itself a coin, but the peso could be cut into halves, quarters or pie-shaped wedges of eights, so a bit was both a coin and a cut-off section of a peso worth the same amount. This 'bit,' being 12 ½ cents, gave us our term 'two bits' (1730, originally as two separate bits or the sum of 25 cents, then as our own 25-cent coin in 1792)."