Posted by: episystechpubs | August 22, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Two Cents

One of our coworkers often signs his responses to us adding “my two cents.” Well, the other day he asked me if I could do an Editor’s Corner on the phrase. Of course, I can!

Today, in Todd Herrick’s honor, I give you this article from Wikipedia.

"My two cents" ("my 2¢") and its longer version "put my two cents in" is an American idiomatic expression, taken from the original English idiom "to put in my two penny worth" or "my two-cents." It is used to preface the tentative statement of one’s opinion. By deprecating the opinion to follow—suggesting its value is only two cents, a very small amount—the user of the phrase, showing politeness and humility, hopes to lessen the impact of a possibly contentious statement. However, it is also sometimes used ironically when expressing a strongly held opinion. The phrase is also sometimes used out of habit to preface uncontentious opinions.

The earliest reference to an analog of "two cents" appears in the lesson of the widow’s mite in both the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke. In the biblical episode, several wealthy temple patrons donate large sums of money, but an extremely poor widow places just two small coins, i.e. her two cents, into the offering. She finds greater favor with Jesus than do the wealthy patrons, seeing that the widow gave all of her money to the Temple in Jerusalem while the wealthy patrons made little investment, leaving much money for themselves.

Some believe that the phrase originates in betting card games, such as poker. In these games, one must make a small bet, or ante, before beginning play. Thus, the phrase makes an analogy between entering the game and entering a conversation. However, there is no documentary evidence of this being the origin of the idiom, so it is merely speculation. Other likely origins are that "my two pennies worth" is derived from the much older 16th Century English expression, "a penny for your thoughts", possibly a sarcastic response to receiving more opinion than was wanted "I said a penny for your thoughts, but I got two pennies’ worth". There is also some belief that the idiom may have its origins in the early cost of postage in England, the "twopenny post", where two pennies was the normal charge of sending a letter containing one’s words and thoughts or feelings to someone….

"Two cents" and its variations may also be used in place of the noun "opinion" or the verb phrase "state [subject’s] opinion", e.g. "You had to put your two cents in, didn’t you?" or "But that’s just my two cents."

This expression is also often used at the end of a statement, e.g. "Just my two cents."

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services


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