Pin money

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8 comments on this post.
  1. Tina:

    Cool. Just heard the term in a documentary and came here. Thanks for the explanation. I never would have thought that 2 day pin sales point was true either.

  2. MaughamsBoy:

    I’m wholly satisfied with the explanation above, but as someone that’s fascinated by etymology (and therefore the fact that two or more quite different origins can coexist and ultimately serve to usher the expression into more common parlance), I have an alternative position. It seems to me that another rational explanation for the term has to do with the common (almost universal in the UK) practice of keeping pound notes strung together on a safety pin. To be sure, the period mentioned above (regarding pin purchasing), would’ve seen much more coin-carrying than note-carrying, however there’s still a very significant chunk of history when ‘walking around money’ would have involved currency notes strung together on a pin. I have to imagine that such a practice would’ve only further reinforced the usage of the expression as a figure of speech meant to describe a sum of money that was modest enough to be carried about (as opposed to being kept in a bank)–particularly given the English cultural affection for wordplay…

  3. MiTmite9:

    Dear Word Detective: Only comment I have is re: Semper ubi sub ubi. The first time I saw that phrase was on a bathroom wall about 30 years ago. Having taken Latin in Jr. High School in the late 60s, when I read those four words, I nearly laughed myself sick. I am curious as to why you have them linked to your name.

  4. valerie jewell:

    The way this term was taught to me by my grandmother, who was born in 1887, was that a father gave his daughter “pin money” to catch a ride home, if her “date” wasn’t going well.
    the money was pinned in her brassiere…..

  5. Brooke Nixon:

    Just wanted to add that pins have historically been used in Europe to fasten clothing while worn. It wasn’t just that home sewing was more important, it was that they were used where we might use buttons or zippers, today. They were an accessory of dress, like gloves or a fan, only even more necessary.

  6. Amy:

    The same explanation was given to me in 1959. But carfare is paid at the destination. And a scoundrel taking liberties might be encouraged, thinking it was intended for him.

  7. Kate:

    This is one of my favorite terms, as my mother and grandmother used to use it to refer money set aside from doing extra work, or set aside from being frugal, like the coin jar, or when we could buy something with S&H green stamps instead of having to pay cash. If we saved on electricity, or my mom negotiated a better heating oil price, or we had casseroles for a week to save on the food budget – that was all pin money.

    My grandmother, who raised & supported her four children through the Crash and the Depression, told me that pin money was the extra money she earned by mending, knitting, and sewing on the side. Her mother, my great-grandmother, used to keep the coins from “pinning” in her sewing/knitting basket. My family was far from being able to afford fancy pins, and given the frugal connotation of the term, perhaps like many things, New Englanders adopted the term for their own use.

  8. Edward Bear:

    It wasn’t just for pins, in the same way that English “tea” is not just the beverage. It’s an example of using an item in a common list to represent the list. I think it is considered “definition drift” or something similar.

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