Blue cent

Mike Salovesh t20mxs1 at CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU
Wed Jun 12 23:16:57 UTC 2002

It may or may not be relevant to recall that during WWII many food items
were rationed in the U.S.  Every individual was entitled to a monthly quota
of different kinds of ration stamps.  To purchase a rationed item, the
buyer paid both a price in dollars and a separate price in ration stamps.
Cardboard tokens were used as "change" for items valued at a fraction of a
ration stamp.  The tokens were about the size of a penny, and were issued
in two colors:
red for meat and blue for processed foods.

IIRC, the tokens replaced ration stamps in 1944 or so -- but my memory of
these items is fuzzy: in my family, my mother closely controlled everyone's
food stamps.  The only reason my father retained control of gasoline ration
stamps was that my mother never learned to drive.

-- mike salovesh   <m-salovesh-9 at>   PEACE !!!

"Douglas G. Wilson" wrote:
> >My dictionaries of slang have nothing to say about "blue cent",
> >meaning an insignificant amount. Can anyone help with an origin
> >and/or likely age?
> I've never heard it myself AFAIK.
> Here is an example attributed to Woody Guthrie, not explicitly dated but
> supposedly pre-1979, from the Web:
> <<But I still am glad I did fall heir to my chorea because it makes me stay
> dizzy and drunk all the time without paying my bartender one little blue
> cent.>>
> "Blue cent" is found on the Internet several times, clearly equivalent to
> the [far] more frequent and usual "red cent". Of course "red cent" means
> "copper [or bronze] cent" [the standard US one-cent coin], and the "red" is
> probably a simple intensifier, adding no information, probably analogous to
> "thin" in "thin dime" ... although there were (long ago) "white cents",
> one-cent coins made of white metal ('steel' one-cent coins issued during WW
> II were not usually called "white" AFAIK).
> I think a somewhat arbitrary adjective can serve as an intensifier in these
> casual expressions, like "I didn't get a single solitary tiny little
> f*cking red cent" or "he can kiss my big fat happy [choose skin colour]
> arse". However, in some cases the adjective has some sense, as in "[I
> didn't get a] plugged nickel" or "... bent farthing".
> Conjectures:
> (1) "Blue" referring to a copper cent which has been exposed to the
> elements, or to acid, and which has turned blue/green: thus less
> desirable/attractive than a shiny new cent. This possibility is supported
> by the existence of "green cent" occasionally in the same sense (a few
> Internet examples). This seems likely in US contexts from a few decades back.
> (2) "Blue" = "counterfeit". This sense of "blue" (in "blue bit") is given
> by Lighter (RHHDAS). [I suppose the original sense was "blue" = "(oxidized)
> copper" as in (1) versus "red" = "gold".] This is pre-1800, though, so I
> doubt its relevance.
> (3) "Blue" euphemistic for "bloody". Partridge gives this with example "I
> haven't a blue bean" = "I'm broke" from ca. 1910, supposedly obsolete by
> 1975 if I'm reading it right. This strikes me as a possibility, although
> perhaps not natural for US uses. [I see a few South African examples of
> "blue cent" on the Web.]
> (4) Doubly-nonsense intensifier chosen simply as a color in opposition to
> red: as in "I don't have a red cent; in fact, I don't even have a blue
> cent; in fact, I don't have a cent of any sort!" The existence of "green
> cent" occasionally in the same sense could support this possibility as well
> as (1).
> [NB: In Internet search, one will encounter -- in a certain role-playing
> game -- a fantasy figure, apparently a type of orc, called a "cent": this
> appears to be an abbreviation of "centurion", and they come in various
> colors, blue, red, yellow, etc. I strongly doubt any relevance to the
> current question.]
> -- Doug Wilson


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