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Bad penny

Posted by ESC on May 11, 2000

In Reply to: Bad penny posted by curious on May 10, 2000

: I heard someone say "like a bad penny" and was wondering what it means. Can anyone help?

"BAD PENNY -- The phrase usually is heard in this country (U.S.) as 'A bad penny always turns up,' meaning that a no-good person can be counted upon to come back again and again. The expression was originally English and the unit of currency referred to was the shilling. Sir Walter Scott, in one of his early nineteenth-century novels, whereto: 'Bring back Darsie? Little doubt of that. The bad shilling is sure enough to come back again.'" From "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).