I've never heard the expression 'bad shilling' in UK use. That's probably a peculiarity of Scott's. (SOme authors do rewrite well-known expressions - Somerset Maugham is notorious for it.) The bad penny probably dates from the days of the silver penny (copper started to come in in 1797 - made by Boulton and Watt, even, and weighing a full ounce) and at times the quality of the silver in them was not up to what people thought it should be. As Dave says, if you got one of these duff pennies, you would spend it as quickly as you could. And by a certain law, it was bound to come back to you in change again, especially in smaller towns, where the supply of money was more restricted.
Jun 14 2006, 10:48 AM