£sd

£sd (pronounced, and sometimes written, L.s.d.) was the popular name for the pre-decimal currencies (sterling) used in the United Kingdom and in most of the British Empire. This abbreviation meant “pounds, shillings, and pence”, having originated from the Latin words “librae, solidi, denarii”. [C.H.V. Sutherland (1973): "English Coinage 600-1900" ISBN 0 7134 0731 X p.10] Under this system, there were 12d (12 pence) in a shilling and 20s (20 shillings) in a pound, making 240d in a pound. The penny (1d) was (until 1960) further divided into four farthings.

As countries became independent from the UK, some (like the United States) abandoned the £sd system quickly, while others (like Australia) retained it almost as long as Britain itself, and still others, notably Ireland, decimalised only when Britain did. Britain abandoned the old penny on Decimal Day, February 15, 1971, when one pound sterling became divided into 100 new pence. The shilling was replaced by a 5 pence coin worth one twentieth pound.

For much of the twentieth century, £sd was the monetary system of most of the Commonwealth countries, the major exception being Canada. Historically, similar systems based on Roman coinage were also used elsewhere, for example for the division of the Livre tournois in France, or the Dutch Guilder.

Writing conventions

In writing, there were several conventions for representing amounts of money in pounds, shillings and pence:

£2.3s.6d. (two pounds, three shillings and sixpence)

1/- (one shilling, colloquially 'one bob')

11d. (elevenpence)

1½d (a penny halfpenny, three halfpence – note that the "lf" in halfpenny/halfpence was always silent - they were pronounced 'haypenny' and 'haypence' - hence the occasional spellings "ha'penny" and "ha'pence")

2/6 (two shillings and six pence, usually pronounced as "two-and-six" or "half a crown")

2/- (two shillings, or one florin, colloquially 'two bob')

4s.3d. ("four-and-threepence", the latter word pronounced 'thruppence', 'threppence' or 'throopence', -oo- as in 'foot')

5s. (five shillings, one crown, five bob, a dollar)

£14.8s.2d (fourteen pounds, eight shillings and twopence - pronounced 'tuppence' – in columns of figures)

£1.10s.- (one pound, ten shillings; one pound ten, thirty bob)

Halfpennies and farthings (quarter of a penny) were represented by the appropriate symbol after the whole pence.

A convention frequently used in retail pricing was to list prices over one pound all in shillings, rather than in pounds and shillings; for example, £4-18-0 would be written as 98/- (£4.90 in decimal currency).

Sometimes prices of luxury goods and furniture were expressed by merchants in whole numbers of guineas, even though the guinea coin had not been struck since 1799. A guinea was twenty-one shillings (£1.05 in decimal currency). Traditionally, solicitors prepared their bills in guineas, allegedly because it gave them an extra 5%. Many British horse races quoted their prize funds in guineas - such as the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket Racecourse.

In popular culture

The currency of Lancre, a kingdom in the fictional world of Discworld is a parody of the L.S.D system, as is the currency in the "wizarding world" of Harry Potter.

Lysergic acid diethylamide was sometimes called “pounds, shillings and pence” during the 1960s, because of the abbreviation LSD. [cite book|last=Dickson|first=Paul|title=Slang: The Authoritative Topic-By-Topic Dictionary of American Lingoes from All Walks of Life|year=1998|publisher=Pocket Books|page=134] The English rock group The Pretty Things released a 1966 single entitled "£.s.d." that highlighted the double entendre. [http://www.theprettythings.com/disco.html The Pretty Things discography]

The Bonzo Dog Band did a cover of the 1931 song, "Ali Baba's Camel", on their 1969 LP, "Tadpoles". The lyrics begin, "You've heard of Ali Baba, forty thieves had he. Out for what we all want, lots of L.S.D." The 1931 version of the song likely referred to currency but the Bonzos likely intended the double-entendre between the currency and the eponymous drug.Fact|date=April 2008

ee also

*Decimal Day for decimalisation in the UK and Ireland
*Decimalisation, for international decimalisation information.

*Pre-decimal British coinage
*Irish pre-decimal system

References


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