Dollars and cents – that’s how I spent my day – counting them out. Or asking people to give me five cents more or ten cents less. In fact, I receive about 100 pennies a day. Usually the folk using them are shy, apologizing for their copper cents piled up on the counter. But pennies are money, too, and sometimes, that’s all you have. Cents can be overlooked, thrown in the garbage, rounded up, but they still count. (I always remember that Superman movie about the villain who built a computer program to steal the world’s rounded up pennies. He made millions.)
A cent is like a person deciding to do something kind, or good, or tiny but useful. Cents and acts of good conscience all add up.
Here’s what our dear Mr Stimpson has to say about the word cent, while waxing somewhat poetic, and showing off his knowledge of Shakespeare.
“Cent as the name of an American coin was first suggested by Morris. In 1782, when assistant to Superindendant of Finance Robert Morris, he prepared for Congress a report in which he suggested that the monetary unit be 1/1440 of a dollar and that the lowest silver coin consist of 100 of these units and be called a cent. These proposals were not adopted, but they became the basis of the system of coinage worked out later by Jefferson and perfected by Hamilton.
Undoubtedly congress borrowed cent from Morris’ report when in 1786 it adopted a system of coins based on mills, cents, dimes and dollars, and prescribed that the cent should be ‘the highest copper piece, of which 100 shall be equal to the dollar.” Morris had studied French and he probably derived cent from centime, rather than directly from Latin centum (hundred).
Cents occurs in Shakespeare, but in French instead of English. In King Henry V a captured French soldier, pleading with Ancient Pistol to spare his life, says: Je vous donnerai deux cents ecus (I will give you two hundred crowns).”
Today’s question: What does “Barnum was right” mean?