Brit euphemism...

Kathleen Miller millerk at NYTIMES.COM
Tue Dec 7 14:02:58 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.

While I was teaching ESL in Poland from 1993-1995, the First Certificate
books from Longman used the phrase, "to spend a penny." As a dumb American
it took me a while to figure it out - but if the British aren't using it
readily, trust that some 80 Polish teenagers are.

Kathleen Miller
Research Assistant to William Safire
The New York Times

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