I don’t really like the government messing with my money and this time I’m not even talking about taxes. Worse than that, I don’t want them messing with my language! The budget announced by the Canadian government yesterday is going to cost us a pretty penny. See what I mean? That saying and many others will likely fade into antiquity now that the decision has been made to stop making our lowly one cent piece!
Benjamin Franklin told us that a penny saved is a penny earned but soon even the penny pinchers won’t have two pennies to rub together!
English is full of idioms, meaningful expressions that can’t be taken literally, and a surprising number of them involve the penny. A bad penny is a person with a bad reputation, to turn up like a bad penny is to arrive at a time or place you are not wanted, penny ante is something of little value or importance and when the penny drops you finally understand something.
Yes, I will miss the humble penny but perhaps it’s outlived its usefulness. After all, it has long outlived penny candy. I vaguely remember the days when a child clutching a few small pennies could choose from a vast array of bulk candies that sold one, two or three for a cent.
It also outlived our one-dollar and two-dollar bills. The gold coloured one-dollar coin, commonly called a loonie because of the common loon that appears on the back, was introduced in 1987. It was followed by the bi-coloured toonie in 1996. Like many Canadians, I didn’t like those changes either because of the weight that carrying coins instead of paper money added to our wallets. I suppose that saying good-bye to the penny will have the opposite effect. My purse was seldom weighed down by many pennies though. Most of them went into the little Alabaster box that sits on top of the fridge.
We’ve all heard of pennies from heaven, money acquired without any effort, but in a sense these Alabaster pennies have been going in the other direction. Alabaster is a program of the international Church of the Nazarene. Taken twice a year, this special offering goes toward the purchase of land and the construction of churches, schools, medical facilities, and homes for missionaries and national workers around the world. Since the first offering was given in 1949, the coins that we’ve collected in our little boxes have added up to approximately $95 million! By the end of 2010, 3983 churches, 398 Bible schools and other school buildings, 537 mission and district centers, 37 hospitals and clinics, 1490 homes and 627 other buildings had been constructed! Perhaps our lowly pennies aren’t so insignificant after all!
See a penny, pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck.