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Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Call It In The Air"

When we participate in the flipping of a coin, the command given is to predict the outcome as “heads or tails.”  For centuries most American and British coins have featured a bust or profile of a head of state on one side of the coin (two-cent pieces, three-cent pieces, and shield nickels would be exceptions).  For the other side, the OED explains with  a citation from 1810 that it is called a tail “without respect to the figure upon it.”
When the coin flipped comes from another country, however, the terminology may change.  When the kopeck above is flipped, the choice is “lattice or eagle.”  The figure on the obverse is a monogram of the ruler, but to the common people it was viewed as a lattice.

Other countries offer other choices:
For a Hungarian it is so obvious to call this game fej vagy írás, “head or script” that he would not believe if somebody told him that no other people says it exactly like this. The Germans say Kopf oder Zahl, the Spaniards and Italians Cara o cruz and Testa o croce, the Poles – just like Russians, and obviously after the same kopeiki – Orze? czy reszka, the Irishmen Head or harps, the Greeks (crown or script), and the ancient Latins Navia aut caput (ship or head [of Janus]), depending on the actual designs of their coins.

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