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Bent or Bad Penny

Posted by ESC on November 15, 2003

In Reply to: Bent or Bad Penny posted by Wally Robertson on November 15, 2003

: I came across a refgerence to a bad penny in a book (The Bone Pedlar, Sylvian Hamilton). The context is a discussion between a father visiting his daughter in her convent in 1210:
: "I prayed for you all the time. I told Our Lady all about you. I bent a penny to her for you. .... It didn't work. You caught a cold. ..... Do you think it might have been a bad penny?"
: I've heard the term, "Queer as a bent penny", and never known its derivation.
: Can anyone give me some informed background on this?
: Thanks in advance. Wal

I'd never heard the "bent penny" phrase either. But I like it.

"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).