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Re: 16 PENNY NAIL

Posted by Bruce Kahl on November 12, 2002

In Reply to: 16 PENNY NAIL posted by SUSAN on November 12, 2002

: CAN ANYONE OUT THERE SHED SOME LIGHT ON WHERE THIS PHRASE/DESCRIPTION CAME FROM AND THE EXACT MEANING?

This system originated in 15th century England, when the "penny" size determined what one paid a blacksmith to forge a hundred nails of that size of nail (one paid three pennies to get a hundred nails of the size called the "3-penny" nail). This price became obsolete before 1500, but has continued to be so entrenched in convention, that its use persists to this day. Now we use it primarily as a measure of length (approximate, at least). We abbreviate the "penny" with the symbol "d", which came from the "denarius", an early Roman coin.

Nails are graded (measured) in a system that refers to their size. The unit is called a "penny." The larger the number, the larger the nail. A 3-penny (3 d) nail is much smaller than a 16-penny nail.
This system originated in 15th century England, when the "penny" size determined what one paid a blacksmith to forge a hundred nails of that size of nail (one paid three pennies to get a hundred nails of the size called the "3-penny" nail). This price became obsolete before 1500, but has continued to be so entrenched in convention, that its use persists to this day. Now we use it primarily as a measure of length (approximate, at least). We abbreviate the "penny" with the symbol "d", which came from the "denarius", an early Roman coin.