1. In the old days you could actually buy something for a two cents… In the UK, for instance, in the 19thC you could buy penny dreadfuls (“The pejorative term is roughly interchangeable with penny horrible, penny awful, and penny blood” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penny_dreadful ) – “a story published in weekly parts of 8 to 16 pages, each costing one penny”.

    Nowadays you can buy nothing for an actual penny, I don’t think, or, I imagine, two cents. So anyone’s two cents is now functionally worthless, whereas before it was worth at least something. Even if it was dreadful.

    The only thing that is a penny is change from something costing, for example, £3.99. Someone on a comedy programme in the UK proposed a 99p coin so you could pay these £X.99 prices with a single coin, so avoid having to carry a pocketful of shrapnel or getting useless single pennies in change, to the great advantage of everyone including shopkeepers.

  2. So the plugger’s 2¢ should now be 80¢ or something.

    (IDU, by the way, the term Plugger, though I have seen many of these cartoons and get it is something to do with pensioners and the elderly etc – but what are they plugging? To me itis a term meaning something like marketing mixed with lobbying, with a hint of underhand tactics).

  3. Pluggers keep on plugging along. Determination but not much in the way of brains or talent.

  4. Wikipedia sez: “In the context of this strip, ‘pluggers’ are defined as rural, blue-collar workers who live a typical working-class American lifestyle, accompanied by a mentality characteristic of the G.I. and Baby Boomer generations.”

  5. Re being unable to buy anything for a penny — I’ve seen a suggestion that, to avoid arrest under the new Georgia election laws, people who otherwise might just give water to folks waiting in line to vote (which has now been made illegal), they instead sell the water to them at a penny a glass.

  6. Thanks for the UK insights.

    I was wondering if “spend a penny” was still used, but that was answered for me a couple days ago, when I watched Season 2 episode 4 of Breeders — Alun Armstrong (as Jim, Paul’s dad) edges his way into the standing congregation at a church service (funeral) already in progress, and his wife (Joanna Bacon as Jackie) asks him “Why didn’t you spend a penny before it started?” .

    spend a penny

  7. There’s a sort of inflation (well, a doubling) — a market failure, as it were — between the common expressions used in the blog title and in the actual caption. When making an offer to purchase someone’s thoughts you offer a penny; but when donating your own thoughts you place the valuation at two cents.

  8. “If it’s a penny for your thoughts and you put in your two cents worth, then someone, somewhere is making a penny.”

    ― steven wright

  9. @ dvandom – thanks. Instead of just plugging along, I would more likely say I was just chugging along, like a slow-moving choo-choo-type train.

    However, a “chugger” would be something else – a charity mugger, one of those active, enthusiastic people who accost you in the street and try to lecture and sweet-talk you into signing up for a long charity donation by direct debit (so not those quiet people who say nothing but just hold out little coin-collecting tins).

  10. @Mitch4 That outtake, I think, has confirmed the niggle in me that I’ve been making a mistake by doing a pass on “Breeders”. Thanks for introducing us to that what-seems-very-important-to-know bit of British language.
    – )

  11. Kevin, I do think it’s a well-made comedy; I hope you do enjoy it. I’m not sure what you mean by “outtake” — the screen capture still I posted was from the actual program (as streamed on Hulu), not some sort of “deleted scenes”. The two actors pictured there are not the stars, btw, though they have been more prominent in season 2 than they were in season 1, if I recall. The two central adult characters are played by the really famous Martin Freeman and the ought-to-be-more-famous Daisy Haggard.

  12. Years ago, I heard the saying: “It’s easier to make two million dollars from one million than it is to make two dollars from one.”

    I’ve never understood that saying.

  13. Maybe cynical, but I take it to mean that a plugger’s two cents worth is worth less and less as time goes on.

  14. J-L, I think they’re trying to say that if you have money you can get money, and if you don’t, you can’t.

  15. With money you can invest or create a business or something. With a dollar you’d need to be a bit more creative because it’s not a lot of capital. When I was in junior high, some of the kids that walked to school would buy candy and gum at the convenience store on the way, and sell it in school for about double.

  16. I was surprised to see that there were still a few things you could buy for less than a nickel at the hardware store. Some small screws and flat washers for instance.

    As for adjusting things for inflation, Victor Borge did a bit he called “Inflationary Language.” It was a story in which all the numbers were incremented. There was a character named Don Two, another character from Elevennessee, things were eleven cents a baker’s dozen and so on. Some would say it was all three much.

  17. “accompanied by a mentality characteristic of the G.I. and Baby Boomer generations”

    Nothing like avocado toast generation gap to make people forget about the vietnam war generation gap…..

  18. If I make 6% on my capital over a year, then roughly speaking, I make .5% on it a month, or even more roughly .12% a week. If my capital is a million bucks, that’s $5000 a month, or $1250 a week; if my capital is a buck, that’s $0.0005 a month… and even less a week. The point is, it’s very, very hard to deal with 10 thousandths of a cent, but $1000 is easy to deal with. (Please forgive me if I’m off by a decimal or two, the main point still holds.) It’s a problem of scale, literally a problem of economies of scale, in that the handling of such infinitesimal amounts costs more than the money is worth. Even on the internet they’ve never been able to crack the problem, even though since the beginning people have been touting the inevitable arrival of micro-payments — but they’ve never materialized (I think here it’s more a problem of greed than feasibility; if the gov’t got its act together it would be feasible to do micro-payments on the internet, but in the real world it is not feasible to deal with fractions of cents, it’s just too expensive per cent — unless you scale up and do lots and lots of fractions of cents together, but then you’re back at the start of the problem.
    Scale matters.
    It’s somewhat analogous to the problem of scale in physical objects — you can’t scale up and be a giant because you would collapse under your own weight, your legs wouldn’t be able to hold you, because your volume goes up by the cube, but the surface area to hold up that volume only goes up by the square — you just can’t have land animals much bigger than elephants on Earth with our gravity. Go the other way, you’d have super powers: one of those annoying — possibly apocryphal — Google interview questions was what should you do if you find yourself suddenly shrunk down to the size of a mouse and you’re inside a blender, and the blender is about to start; the answer is jump up, because with your muscle power to weight ratio, you roughly maintain your absolute leaping ability no mater the scale — you can jump straight up about one foot no matter your scale, but when you’re six feet tall, that means you can only jump up a sixth of your height, but if you’re 2 inches tall, you can jump 6 times your height (and easily jump out of the blender).
    It’s not just a metaphorical thing about the rich getting richer — it’s actually a real manifestation of a scale thing.

  19. Remember the (actual or fictional?) scheme by programmers within a bank to siphon off fractional cents from rounding of ordinary customer transactions, and accumulate the funds in dummy accounts that they later would transfer out to themselves?

  20. So yeah, of course, I’m off by a decimal, it’s $.005 /month, $0.0012/week, which makes it in the realm of one thousandth of a dollar, not ten thousandth of a cent… Those are the errors that jump out at me, but are probably not the only ones… Nevertheless, the point, though not as dramatic, still stands, that to handle a tenth of a cent is still too expensive, compared to handling $1000… take a 1% commission, the $1000 gives you ten bucks, the tenth of a cent gives you a thousandth of a cent…

  21. Old street vendor joke: “How about this nice soup spoon?” “How much is it?” “One penny.” “Umh, I don’t know.” “Well, make me an offer!”

  22. It’s a very common trope on forums around the internet to have in the “signature line” area in posts a comment relating in some manner to the relative worth of their “two cents”.

  23. larK – we have convincing evidence of land animals much larger than elephants in the fossil record.

  24. Danny Boy: “Salami slicing” frauds, where people steal extremely small amounts from very large numbers of people, turn out to be well-documented; Google and Wikipedia turn up plenty of cases of people charging for one tenth of an extra gallon of gas and pocketing it, or things like that. I can’t find an actual case of the “round down a fraction of a cent and pocket it” documented, but everybody seems to just treat it as a given that SOMEBODY did it at some point. And, of course, it was the plot driver in HACKERS, SUPERMAN III, and OFFICE SPACE. So it’s been done in fiction a fair bit; things conceptually similar have been done, like rounding down to the nearest nickel and keeping the extra few cents, and people assume that someone MUST have done the “rounding down the fraction of a cent” thing, but, if someone did, then they got away with it, because I can’t find any case of someone being caught for it.

  25. I think it’s more to the point that a plugger will give you all the advice you want, and most likely quite a bit more, for the same low low price that pluggers have charged since the dawn of pluggerdom. All it’ll cost you is your time. Possibly a bit of mental health.

  26. There are also a variety of pretty much above-board “keep the change” campaigns. The charge or deposit is rounded down to the next dollar amount, and the difference either goes to charity or, in the case of linked checking account / debit card, a deposit or somehow a charge will get rounded and the difference is deposited in the customer’s own savings account, at the same bank. This is an “encourage saving” tool.

  27. @Mitch4 Yikes! I’ve always known what an “outtake” is. I wonder what word I was thinking of, one that let me write that. “scene” is the best one I can think of now.
    (I’ve hoped for years that there would be an “A Civil Action” blu-ray that would have outtakes with me as a geologist (extra). They reshot the next day, from above, and now I’m a dot so small it barely registers on the DVD, another reason I’d like a 4K version.

  28. Mitch4, I went for that for a few seconds. :-0) I did some searching, and when I found “still” (and “production still”, when it’s from the set, but not the movie), I knew that it was the popular word I was looking for.
    I feel that “scene” might be a better word for your image because there is quite a bit of story in it, even without your setup; great capture!

  29. Yeah, OK, I’ll grant that there were larger land animals than elephants, but there is a distinct limitation of size achievable; the largest animal ever is the blue whale, which masses about 25 elephants, and the blue whale is aquatic, which eases some of the burden of mass. So yeah, I undersold it by an order of magnitude, but there is still a distinct limit on how big you can get.

  30. Problem with investing a dollar is that there currently isn’t anything that will return 6% (or really anything) for an amount that small. Savings accounts pay nothing at best, a one-dollar balance might incur fees that would immediately wipe it out.

    Of course, 6% guaranteed isn’t really doable for large amounts either. Long-term Treasuries are around 2% these days. Short-term and CDs are <1%. You’d have to take risk somewhere.

  31. The “salami scheme” was a real scheme that at least one programmer did, but it may not have happened since about 1970 or so. Forensic accountants found out about it, and you can find it easily if you know exactly what to look for.

    We don’t have micropayments of the kind that was discussed in the 1990’s, but there has been one interesting development: do you remember when merchants wouldn’t take credit cards for transactions of less than $10 because of the processing fees? Now they don’t seem to mind if you use your credit card to buy a fifty-cent item. On the Internet, PayPal seems to have no lower limit on how much you can pay for something.

  32. I’m sure most small-business merchants would mind if you charged a 50-cent item. Even PayPal charges a $0.30 fee per transaction (plus a percentage).

  33. The owner of the business probably would mind if you charge a 50-cent item. The underpaid clerk at the register certainly does not mind.

  34. Mitch, you keep giving me great leads for TV shows! This is the third time in recent memory that you’ve lead me to a great show (State of the Union, and Detectorists are two others that come to mind). Thanks!
    Have you seen 800 Words? It’s a quirky New Zealand show that I think you would enjoy; the premise of the title is a bit silly and contrived, but it quickly surpasses the limitations of the premise, and despite the obvious way it’s set up, it nevertheless grows on you and surpasses the obviousness of the setup — it just grows and grows on you! (on me, at least!) I’m so sad they never made a 4th series…

  35. Thanks, it is always nice to hear somebody has enjoyed something I was able to share.
    I think I have heard of 800 words but haven’t checked it out .

  36. When I was in elementary school – early 1960s – a container of milk (I am guessing a cup) in the school cafeteria was 2 cents – which was a good price for it compared to buying it in the supermarket as it was government subsidized.

    However I thought the school was charging too much for it. The various charities on the TV which were collecting to give to starving people in poor countries would talk about much larger quantities of milk costing 5 cents – so to me 2 cents was overcharging for the cup – I was young at the time and did not understand the cost differences involved.

  37. Or as is said in “Casablanca” – “A franc for your thoughts.” “In America it would only be worth a penny.”

  38. The third series of Breeders has now gotten started on Hulu. I watched the first episode (of the two released so far), and thought it very good, though not very much in a funny vein.

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