"penny" pre-1831 for 'U.S. cent'?

Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Tue Feb 15 20:49:51 UTC 2005

On Feb 15, 2005, at 3:24 PM, George Thompson wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "penny" pre-1831 for 'U.S. cent'?
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> The great difficulty he meets with, is in procuring persons to come
> forward as witnesses, although scores of poor people could testify to
> the facts, if it were not for the reluctance they feel at the supposed
> disgrace they should incur by being pointed at as common informers.

"... the ... disgrace [of] being pointed at as common informers"

So, even as far back as at least 1818, no one wanted to gain the street
reputation of being someone who would "eat cheese on" [mid-'60's Los
Angeles] someone to the authorities.

-Wilson Gray

> But let those greater offenders, who hire the petty rogues by giving
> them ten percent of the profit to procure these insurances during the
> day, and late at night make over the book to them, let these be watched
> and severely punished.  I am informed that at some of the insurance
> offices even a penny premium is taken from the lowest of their
> customers.  New-York Evening Post, February 16, 1818, p. 2, col. ?
> This refers to the practice of "policy" gambling.  There were various
> legal lotteries at the time, all requiring a fairly costly bet.  The
> numbers brokers (in modern terms) sold supposed insurance policies
> against the possibility of a certain number being drawn.
> The letter was delivered to Mr. Hopson by the penny post, yesterday.
> New=York Enquirer, June 4, 1828, p. 2, col. 1
> These are the only occurences of "penny" in my notes, mostly from NYC
> newspapers, through 1830.  1500+ pages.
> George A. Thompson
> Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
> Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

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