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#165435 - 01/22/07 10:42 PM Turn up like a bad penny.
Hydra Offline

Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 631
Can anyone tell me the origin of this phrase?

#165436 - 01/22/07 10:52 PM Re: Turn up like a bad penny.
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10538
Loc: this too shall pass
turn up

1. Increase the volume, speed, intensity, or flow of, as in Turn up the air conditioning; it's too hot in here. [Late 1800s]
2. Find or be found, as in She turned up the missing papers, or Your coat turned up in the closet.
3. Appear, arrive, as in His name turns up in the newspaper now and then, or Some old friends turned up unexpectedly. [c. 1700] This usage gave rise to turn up like a bad penny, meaning that something unwanted constantly reappears, as in Ken turns up like a bad penny whenever there's free liquor. Bad here alludes to a counterfeit coin.
4. Fold or be capable of being folded, as in I'll just turn up the hem, or He preferred cuffs that turn up. [c. 1600]
5. Happen unexpectedly, as in Something turned up so I couldn't go to the play. Also see the following idioms beginning with turn up.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms

and this:

Sir Walter Scott, in one of his early nineteenth-century novels, whereto: 'Bring back Darsie? Little doubt of that. The bad shilling is sure enough to come back again.'" From "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris

Edited by tsuwm (01/22/07 11:03 PM)

#165437 - 01/23/07 02:25 AM Re: Turn up like a bad penny.
Hydra Offline

Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 631
Thanks tswum.

Do you think the expression is based on some now-forgotten superstition? I was hoping it would be. I thought of Borges's cursed Zahir which "posses the terrible propery of being unforgettable, and whose imagine finally drives one mad’; I thought it might have to do with Judas's thirty silver pieces; or maybe the opposite of the coin which Leopold Bloom marks and sets adrift "on the waters of civic finance" in the hope it will one day be returned to him, but never is.

>Bad here alludes to a counterfeit coin.

So I guess it's just something ordinary like that counterfeit coins used to be so common the odds were you'd eventually get one.

Thanks for the information though.

Edited by Hydra (01/23/07 02:27 AM)


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