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Jitney
Posted: 26 October 2011 08:02 AM   [ Ignore ]
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A curiosity that has bothered me for years.
A Jitney is a jaloupy or broken down car, auto, cart, etc.
As a boy in elementary school we had what was called “Jitney Lunch”.  I’ve never figured out why.
We did not have a hot lunch program, rather brown bagged it.  So this was a treat.
It consisted of hotdog, salad, and cookie/cupcake.  Every one stayed, including the
home for lunch crew.  But what does jitney have to do with a hot dog lunch?

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Posted: 26 October 2011 08:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The original meaning of jitney was ‘a five-cent piece, a nickel.’

1903 Cincinnati Enquirer 2 May 11/5 [In St. Louis] a ‘crown guy’ is a policeman, a ‘gitney’ is a nickel, and ‘mug’s landing’ is the Union Station.

It was then used in phrases (1914, earliest cite in OED) such as jitney bus, a cheap bus ride and thence to anything of low cost, ("An omnibus or other motor vehicle which carries passengers for a fare, orig. five cents. So, on account of the low fare or the poor quality of these buses, used attrib. to denote anything cheap, improvised, or ramshackle.") including it would seem lunches, although OED doesn’t have a specific cite for that.

Dave or one of the others may have more information as the best reference work for such American slang terms is the RHHDAS (Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang) to which I have no access.

[ Edited: 26 October 2011 08:25 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 26 October 2011 08:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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jitney: an archaic name for a nickel (US 5-cent piece)

Thus, “nickel lunch” ?

A WAG…

[pipped by aldiboronti]

[ Edited: 26 October 2011 08:29 AM by sobiest ]
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Posted: 26 October 2011 02:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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HDAS has the same first citations as the OED. But Green’s Dictionary of Slang antedates the noun for “five-cent piece” by a few years:

1899 Morning Herald 4: “Can’t spare de change. Me granmaw died in Sout’ Afriky an’ I need di to float me over ter de fun’ral.” “Quit yer kiddin’ an’ let me have a jitney.”

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Posted: 27 October 2011 05:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Any wild hypotheses about the origin of jitney?

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Posted: 27 October 2011 06:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Even now, you Americans have relatively colourful names for your coinage: nickel and dime, obviously, but even calling your cent a “penny” or the 25 cent a quarter brightens the place up. In Aust they are always ... always… called five cent piece, ten cent piece, twenty cent piece, fifty cent piece…
There are at least slang terms for a couple of the notes: a $20 is called a lobster, and a $50 a pineapple, in each case because of the colour.

In the predecimal era, which was somewhat before my time, the slang terms for the coins were largely taken from Britain, e.g. bob or dina for a shilling, but Australians uniquely called the sixpence a zack: I’ve never heard any hypothesis about why that is.

That’s all I got.

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Posted: 27 October 2011 12:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Australians uniquely called the sixpence a zack: I’ve never heard any hypothesis about why that is.

Perhaps from the Yiddish ”zeks” for “six”? At least one slang term for US currency is derived from Yiddish: ”finnif” for five dollars. Yiddish expressions are not unknown in Aussie slang (e.g. gonif, a thief)

25 cents US used to be called “two bits”, though I think the term may have fallen somewhat into disuse. It refers to the time (late 18C) when the first silver dollars were struck, on the standard of the Spanish silver peso which circulated widely in America at that time. The peso was divided into 8 fractions (8 reales - hence the term “pieces of eight"). These 1/8 fractions were called ‘bits’ in American parlance, and a peso was sometimes cut up into actual pieces.

The US dollar sign $, BTW, is derived from the reverse design of the Spanish silver coinage of that time: the Pillars of Hercules, wrapped in a curling banner (which on the Spanish coins bore the legend plus ultra (the two pillars seem in the meantime to have merged into one, at least in computer fonts)

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Posted: 28 October 2011 05:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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OP Tipping - 27 October 2011 06:25 AM

… Australians uniquely called the sixpence a zack: I’ve never heard any hypothesis about why that is.

There is this.

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Posted: 28 October 2011 06:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Nothing beats the Canadian dollar coin, the loonie. (From the image of a loon on the reverse side.) And, therefore, the two-dollar coin is the toonie.

“two bits”, though I think the term may have fallen somewhat into disuse

It’s still used, but rarely straight up. It’s mostly used in an affected, half-serious, manner.

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Posted: 28 October 2011 03:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Was there ever an American half-cent coin?

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Posted: 28 October 2011 04:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Yes. From 1793 to 1857—according to Wikipedia.

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Posted: 29 October 2011 01:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Yeoman’s A Guidebook of United States Coins (a standard numismatic reference book) confirms this.

(Three cheers for Wikipedia. For all its faults and weaknesses (errare humanum est), I think Wikipedia is one of the most important cultural events of the 20th/21st century. I find it of immense value and practical use. As long as it exists, and doesn’t belong to some commercial outfit - it will have my esteem and support)

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Posted: 09 November 2011 12:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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lionello - 27 October 2011 12:38 PM

The US dollar sign $, BTW, is derived from the reverse design of the Spanish silver coinage of that time: the Pillars of Hercules, wrapped in a curling banner (which on the Spanish coins bore the legend plus ultra (the two pillars seem in the meantime to have merged into one, at least in computer fonts)

I believe this is only one of numerous theories on the origin of the dollar sign, none of which has been conclusively proven (which I find interesting for such a ubiquitous - at least in the US - symbol).  I could certainly be mistaken, though.

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Posted: 09 November 2011 01:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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NotThatGuy - 09 November 2011 12:57 PM

lionello - 27 October 2011 12:38 PM
The US dollar sign $, BTW, is derived from the reverse design of the Spanish silver coinage of that time: the Pillars of Hercules, wrapped in a curling banner (which on the Spanish coins bore the legend plus ultra (the two pillars seem in the meantime to have merged into one, at least in computer fonts)

I believe this is only one of numerous theories on the origin of the dollar sign, none of which has been conclusively proven (which I find interesting for such a ubiquitous - at least in the US - symbol).  I could certainly be mistaken, though.

There’s a very good rundown at this site on the competing theories for the origin of the dollar sign, including:

The United States Abbreviation Theory
The Peso Abbreviation and Piece of Eight Theories
The Potosi Mint Mark Theory
The Shilling Abbreviation Theory
The Portuguese Cifrão Theory
The Hand Counted Paper Theory
The Slavery Theory

As we know the origin of the much older British pound sign it may seem surprising, writes the author of the site, that the dollar sign origin is not known with equal certainty, but then the Euro sign has been around practically no time at all and apparently its origin too is the subject of debate.

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Posted: 16 November 2011 09:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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OP (Tipping), the only other nickname I ever heard for Oz currency was to call the old paper $10 note a Henry Lawson, for the poet whose face was on it. If you want to get a blank look from most of my countryfolk, ask them who the people are on the ‘new’ polymer notes, and why they were considered important enough to be put on the money in the first place. Bunnies in the headlights time.

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Posted: 17 November 2011 05:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I sometimes call the pineapple a “Cowan” but I am not aware than anyone else does…

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