Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Penny Pincher

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 5, 2010

The more negative term “penny pincher” has a history that dates back to the 19th Century.

A penny-a-liner was the term used for a writer for a journal or newspaperback in 1834.   The less a writer wrote, the less money the publisher had to pay for the story and if the writer wanted to write for the publisher on a regular basis, he learned to keep his stories short and simple.  In this way, the publisher was a penny pincher, squeezing out as much as he could from the writer without paying very much for that information.

Later on, in 1870, a story that was penny dreadful  was one filled with cheap and gory fiction to appeal to the more sensational aspect of stories.  Little effort was required to create such stories and with brisk sales, not much money had to be spent promoting the sale of such fiction.  This allowed the publisher of such stories to realize as much profit as possible without paying much money out.

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