If you’re me — and don’t I wish I was — people often boggle at the amount of random shit likely to fall from your head (via the mouth) at any given time. My brain, it seems, is Fibber McGee’s closet, and opening it is likely to produce a jangly crash of junk toppling over.

Here’s how this happens. This morning, while editing Kiss of the Strangler, in between takes I made a comment about a sixpenny nail. It occurred to me in passing that I didn’t really understand where sizing for nails originated, or why the designation for sixpenny nail would be 6d on the box. So off to the new Library of Alexandria, teh Intar-web. After a bit of scouring, I found this site about the history of weights and measures, complete with sources, and voilà. (FYI, that reverse accent mark is called a grave, and the ASCI hotkey for a lowercase Latin a with grave is ALT+0224)

I discovered that the “d” symbol is for the Latin denarius, or penny, and that the measurement is essentially meaningless as it referred to the amount one would have to spend to buy 100 nails of a particular length. Economies have changed slightly since the 16th century, so now it’s simply a rote designation with no relation at all to the original measurement. Making matters worse, this system used the British great hundred or King’s hundred, so 100 was really 120. So, for 5p you got 100 6d nails.

As. Mud.

I love this stuff. I can’t wait to tuck this nugget away with the other mathems and then unleash it on some poor, unsuspecting soul during set construction someday…

One Response to My head is the warehouse from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

  • Tod Hunter says:

    FWIW, the 6d is from the OLD British monetary system, where 16 pennies made a shilling and 20 shillings made a pound.

    When decimalisation came in in the early ’70s, a shilling was redefined as 5 “new pence” and 100 “new pence” made a pound, so the old 20 shillings = 1 pound ratio was kept, making it less confusing. Shillings continued to be used as 5p coins, new decimal coins were issued (including a very nice seven-sided 50p coin) and old coins were phased out.

    in old British movies you can still see prices using the old money, with prices displayed as shillings and pence, separated by a slash or an apostrophe.

    Weird thing is, I thought it was a weight designation, not a value. Thanks for the new info.

Whatcha think?

Subscribe to the Tango

Get an email whenever I blather.

Posts by Category
Posts by Date
June 2010
« May   Jul »
From Twitter
Random Quote

It is only the great men who are truly obscene. If they had not dared to be obscene, they could never have dared to be great. — Havelock Ellis