Posted by Word Camel on February 05, 2004
In Reply to: Two Bits posted by Henry on February 05, 2004
: : : : : Hearing this phrase often from my grandfather "Two Bits", I know it means .25 cents. What's a bit and if it's two of them, why .25 cents?
: : : : It's an arbitrary small amount. Similarly, "I wouldn't give tuppence for it." (two pence)
: : : See link below from a previous discussion we had here a while ago.
: : Thanks!! This site is great and everyone is cool. Thanks again!
: It's still a surprise that "two" and not "one" should be used to represent a very small quantity.
: I wouldn't give two pins for it.
: Two shakes of a lamb's tail.
: I'll be back in two ticks.
: I expect there are more.
Back in the dark recesses of my memory there is something about the way people perceive numbers visually. I think three is the minimum number anyone considers a group. If you have a cocktail with three jumbo shrimp, you are likely to remember that you had some shrimp. If you had only two, you'll remember that you had *only* two - even if they were larger than four medium sized shrimp put together.
There is a similar affect with the memory people have of groups. After seven it becomes progressively difficult to remember all the individuals in a group you've seen. After ten it's virtually impossible to remember exactly how many there were or each individually. Perhaps it's something to do with that, because although language is languge it seems very closely related to how we perceive things visually.