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The meaning and origin of the expression: As queer as a nine bob note

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As queer as a nine bob note


Odd or unusual. Also used to mean homosexual.


ten bob noteIn the UK, until 1971, when they ceased to be legal tender, the brown ten shilling notes were a commonplace. They were popularly called a 'ten bob note' or 'half-a-nicker' (a nicker was a pound).

Of course, nine bob notes never existed. The date of the phrase's coinage isn't known, but the American version 'as queer as a nine-dollar bill' dates from at least 1965, when it was included in John Trimble's 5000 Adult Sex Words and Phrases:

Nine-dollar Bill... An Absolute Invert or Homosexual. From the inference that one is "Three times as queer as a three-dollar bill".

The British version had variants; for example, 'as queer as a nine-bob watch', which would be suspect on account of its unrealistic cheapness, and 'as queer as a chocolate orange'. The latter was in use as a slang phrase prior to its influence on the title of Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange, 1962, later made into a film by Stanley Kubrick. Another variant was 'as soft as a chocolate teapot', which alluded to soft, that is, effeminate men.

See other 'as x as y similes'.