etymology - Where did the expression "my two cents" come from?

20
2014-04
  • Daniel

    I've seen "$.02", "2¢", "just my two cents", etc, similar in meaning to IMHO, except usually appended to the main text.

    As the Ngram shows, it is only "two cents" that is popular in this usage:

    show vs shew

    How does "two cents" express humility of opinion?

  • Answers
  • Brendon

    Urban dictionary has some surprisingly good entries on the topic if you ignore the humour surrounding it:

    This phrase draws an analogy to the poker ante (two bits) and gains your entry into the conversation.

    The trick is recognising the (I assume) older bits instead of cents.

    Also, two-bit still lives on in common usage, meaning "insignificant":

    That's my insignificant contribution.

  • Unreason

    Wikipedia has only speculations that it is related to either or both of these sayings:

    • I said a penny for your thoughts, but I got two pennies' worth
    • If you don't put your two cents in, how can you get change?
  • Daniel

    IMHO the ironical meaning of this phrase is mostly lost on the internet -- "that's my two cents" nowadays just means "that's my opinion, take it or leave it", whereas it once implied self-deprecation, at least according to the eminently fallible urban dictinary. There are lots of British slang phrases (which seem to be mostly 19th century) that include the amount of two pence as a designator of something cheap or worthless (twopenny-rope, two penn'orth of tripe, tuppeny-ha'penny) so maybe "my $.02" is derived from them. As Stan Rogers says above, 2 pence would have been a fairly substantial amount to many people in Victorian times, so I'm a bit confused about this.


  • Related Question

    etymology - Where did the expression "have at it" come from?
  • BeemerGuy

    I couldn't find its etymology... does anyone know? What does it mean and when should it be used?


  • Related Answers
  • Jon Purdy

    In modern usage, to have at is to attempt, to go ahead, or to attack physically. I suspect it comes from a shortening of the phrase have a go (at), which is used in the very same situations. Have at it means try (to do) it, have at thee! announces an attack in Shakespearian English, and he had at her with a knife means he attacked her with it.

  • RegDwigнt

    Straitdope's forum suggests

    The phrase "have at avail" means to have at an advantage and the earliest citation is to Malory (Le Morte D'Arthur) in the phrase* "Him thought no worship to have a knight at such avail, . . ."

    Apparently "have at you" (or similar) appears in several Shakespeare plays in the sense of: let battle commence.

  • Tom Au

    "Have at it" is short for "Have a go at it."

    The structure may be derived from a similar expression in Swedish, "Att gaa paa."