Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

September 24, 2012

Five grand for your thoughts

By Rebecca Todd

— "A penny for your thoughts."

Believe it or not, the well-known saying originated in the Middle Ages. That would make sense. A penny was probably worth a fortune back then. In fact, one source reveals that in 1217, one penny was about a month's salary.

No, I have no idea why people have such information on hand. Some people are just into that kind of thing. I have no reason to doubt it. The Internet wouldn't lie. Don't judge.

Now, however, offering someone a penny for their thoughts sounds more like an insult; although quite frankly, during this campaign season, most of the thoughts I've heard voiced lately aren't worth much more. I wouldn't give a penny for their two cents worth.

Sadly for some, we may soon have to eliminate the saying from our vocabulary. Either that or change it to "a nickel for your thoughts" at the very least. The beloved penny may soon be going the way of payphones and drive-in movies, disappearing into virtual oblivion.

Many countries around the world, including our North American neighbors Canada and Mexico, have recently eliminated their lowest currency. The push is on for the U.S. to follow suit. There are even groups, such as "Citizens to Retire the U.S. Penny" who are dedicated to the noble pursuit.

I'm kidding, of course. These guys have way too much time on their hands. "Gosh, should I watch a marathon of all six "Star Wars" movies or update my "Eliminate the Penny" website and then tweet about it?"

Not that I'm judging anyone.

However, I have to admit that there is a strong case for eliminating the penny. It costs more to produce a penny - over two cents - than it is worth. According to retirethepenny.org (the aforementioned website), in 2011, the U.S. spent almost $120 million to produce less than $50 million of circulating currency.

Incidentally, the same is true of all coins. It takes more than double to produce them than they are worth. But apparently, that is beside the point.

Stores and businesses across the country are on board with eliminating pennies. Many have banned them within their own stores, including a handful of businesses in the Indianapolis area.

Yet there are several arguments against eliminating the penny. In fact, most surveys done on the subject - and there have been a lot - show that 60 to 75 percent (varying by survey) of Americans favor keeping the penny, for both fiscal and sentimental reasons.

Personally, I'm already feeling nostalgic for those shiny, copper Abe-heads.

For so many years I was the young, harried professional that would get all bent out of shape waiting for the older woman in line ahead of me at the grocery store to fish exact change out of her pocketbook. Now I'm that older woman, and I won't be able to extract my revenge on the younger generation. I'm screaming foul. Where's mine? Don't judge me.

What about penny loafers? Quarter loafers would just look too gaudy.

What about penny slots? How are miserly gamblers going to get their fix?

What about girls named Penny? Are they going to have to change their name?

As for the grand old saying, "A penny for your thoughts," what's it going to be now; $5,257.58 for your thoughts? Incidentally, that is the average monthly salary in the U.S. in 2011. According to the Internet; which wouldn't lie.

Don't judge.

- Rebecca Todd is a freelance writer from Clayton and is the author of the book "What's the Point?" available at booklocker.com. Contact her at btodd@tds.net.