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How to pronounce
UK pre-decimal money

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In various modern period dramas and television programmes on how people used to live, the actors and presenters usually refer to the old pre-decimal money in ways which show that they were too young to have lived with it, i.e. too young to have heard it spoken around them and spoken it themselves in their everyday lives.

One particular example from a popular actress and presenter concerned 5d, ie five old pennies which she pronounced like the post-1971 money, i.e. as the two words "five pence". In practice everyone in the south east of England said it as a single word "fifep'nce" with the "fife ..." rhyming with "life". This was not a matter of class or education - simply generally accepted custom. There were of course regional variations.


Pronunciations of pre-decimal money in the South East England

1¼d pronounced farthing
½d pronounced a haypenny or haypence
1½d pronounced three haypence
1d pronounced a penny
3d pronounced thr'p'nce or a joey
2d pronounced tupp'nce
pronounced tupp'ence haypence
3d pronounced thr'p'nce or a joey
4d pronounced forp'nce
5d pronounced fifep'nce where 'fife' rhymes with 'life'
6d pronounced sixp'nce or a tanner
7d pronounced sevenp'nce
8d pronounced eightp'nce
9d pronounced ninep'nce
10d pronounced tenp'nce
11d pronounced elevenp'nce
1/- pronounced a shilling or a bob
1/1 pronounced one and a penny
1/2 pronounced one and tuppence .... etc
2/- pronounced two shillings or a florin
2/6 pronounced half a crown or a half crown or two and six
£1 pronounced pound, same as after decimalisation
£1/1/-  a guinea, pronounced a ginny with a hard g as in give
£1/3/6 pronounced one pound three and six

Regional variations to pronouncing the old money

We in Northern Ireland pronounced 5d as fippence - similarly a penny, tuppence, thrupence, fourpence, fippence, etc.

Paul Mc Cann

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.