Nickels, Dimes and Dollars

Full House by Phil Houseal

As my granddaughter dropped scavenged coins into her piggy bank, I realized I am seeing the last generation that will use this method of saving.

Coins are obsolete.

I hate to calculate the time spent first as a student, then as a teacher and parent either learning or trying to teach the values of coinage. There used to be an entire chapter in the math textbook devoted to sorting out the silly names of coins.

One cent is called a penny? Why? Nickels? Dimes? Quarters?

The words we give coins bear no attachment to their value, except for those who majored in Latin. Maybe “half dollar” makes sense — 50 cents.

For what purpose did we make sure our kids could tell the difference between a dime and a dollar? Sure, it was a valuable life skill in the 1940s when newspapers, phone calls, candy bars, cigars, and cups of coffee all cost a nickel.

But when is the last time you bought anything and got change for a dollar? The debate is not whether we need to keep the penny. The debate is why we need any coins under a dollar at all?

Dollars are a decimal system that is so much easier to remember. A dollar is called “a dollar.” Five dollars is “five dollars.”

Not a tanner or a quid or a half-farthing or whatever fol-de-rol the British came up with.

Another candidate for discarded art is that of “Telling Time.”

We’ve long anticipated this, ever since digital watches appeared. But it has gone beyond the retirement of the analog clock face.

(I still remember missing a question in elementary school about “half past” nine. In my mind, the big hand would be halfway down the right side, so I said 9:15. The correct answer, of course, is nobody says half past nine anymore!)

The reason we don’t need to “read” clocks is because they will “tell” us the time. With a synthetic voice. And remind us over and over.


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Fredericksburg Standard

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Fredericksburg, TX 78624-4228