Brit euphemism...

Aaron E. Drews aaron at LING.ED.AC.UK
Tue Dec 7 12:44:16 UTC 1999

On Tue, 7 Dec 1999, Bethany K. Dumas wrote:

}On Tue, 7 Dec 1999, Bruce Dykes wrote:
}>I heard one new to me from our London office:
}>"He's gone to spend a penny."
}It's not new, it's very old. Under the old currency, it took a large
}copper penny to open the stall door. I have wondered since 1971 (when
}decimal cxurrency completely replaced the old currency) if the phrase
}would survive. I am delighed to see that it has.

My mother was tickled when she heard my father-in-law use the phrase.  I
wounder if the phrase is used by younger speakers.  How old was the London

It just dawned on me that, perhaps, the phrase could be related to how
pence are referred to, here: a penny is 1p.

}(I have a number of large copper pennies on hand, if anyone needs one.)

No thanks.  Public toilets are free in Edinburgh. :-)


Aaron E. Drews                               The University of Edinburgh
aaron at                  Departments of English Language and       Theoretical & Applied  Linguistics


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