[Ads-l] "two cents" (and a lot more)

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 29 18:25:38 UTC 2019

I find an 1866 anecdote in a newspaper under the title, "Ten Cents' 
Worth of Advice." The Cecil Whig (Elkton, Maryland), January 20, 1866, 
page 4.  In the story, someone ordered advice through mail-order and 
received a simple note about how to safely use a knife when whittling - 
"always whittle from you."

A similar anecdote later that same year about someone who ordered 
"twenty-five cents worth of advice." St. Johnsbury Caledonian (Vermont), 
August 17, 1866, page 1.  The response, "Take your cistern and well into 
the house on cold nights and keep up a good fire."

In 1872, an essay about the value of getting advice from books instead 
of from people.  The problem with people, "They give us five cents worth 
of advice and expect us to serve them a life time.  Books make no such 
demands." Yorkville Enquirer (South Carolina), August 22, 1872, page 4.

There are a few more similar references to cheap advice.

The specific shorthand form of "two cents" or "two cents worth" to refer 
to advice given may be a regionalism from Pennsylvania.  Stephen 
Goranson found an early example from Philadelphia in 1893.  I found a 
slightly earlier example from Wilkes-Barre in June 1893, another from 
Philadelphia in 1895 and another from Mount Carmel 1899.  I didn't 
quickly run across other examples from elsewhere.

[Begin Excerpt]
"I have been reading, 'How to be Happy Though Poor,' in the News-Dealer 
of late, and of course, like all cranks, I though the discussion 
couldn't be finished without me, so here goes my 'two cents:' Poverty 
has nothing to do with happiness. Neither has wealth."
[End Excerpt]
Wilkes-Barre News, June 27, 1893, page 4.

  about a man who purchased 25 cents worth of advice by mail-order and 
received a note about how to whittle properly.

"Ten Cents' Worth of Advice.

------ Original Message ------
From: "Stephen Goranson" <goranson at duke.edu>
To: ADS-L at listserv.uga.edu
Sent: 3/29/2019 4:31:07 AM
Subject: Re: "two cents" (and a lot more)

>---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
>Subject:      Re: "two cents" (and a lot more)
>A quick glance (easily antedated, my 2c) turned up Philadelphia Inquirer (p=
>rice: one cent), Oct. 11, 1893, p. 7, col. 1:
>I suppose you will think I am going into ancient history for mentioning tha=
>t article that you gave some time ago about "Man's Complacency," but I do f=
>eel like putting in my "two cents" to what has already been said.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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