John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey

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Happy Happy

Happy berfday to the awesome kamau_d_lyon and to the late but still awesome twoolfe!

For your present, here's today's Forgotten English!

Supported by, dependent or subsisting on, the doles or gifts of patrons; formed on Latin sportula, little basket, dole, gift; [1600s].
--Sir James Murray's New English Dictionary, 1919

Ha'penny Handout
Henry Edwards's Old English Customs: Curious Bequests and Charities (1842) described an eccentric and rather inequitable method of distributing an annual charitable donation to the poor, performed annually on July 17: "The sum of nineteen shillings and twopence was the proportion of certain consolidated charities to which the township was entitled. ... The overseer had the money changed into pence and half-pence, and placed in a peck measure, inviting all the poor to take a handful, which was done. Those who came last, of course, got none." Trench Johnson's Phrases and Names: Their Origins and Meanings (1906) described why ha'pennies were so called: "The original penny pieces were deeply indented [scored] crosswise so that halfpennies and farthings (or 'fourthlings') could easily be broken off, as an occasion demanded."

Heh. I knew that about ha'pennies ... I didn't know that about farthings!

-The Gneech
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