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Two-bit

Two-bit is an American term that has its roots in the days when the country was still only English colonies. We will examine the meaning of the term two-bit, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Two-bit is an adjective that describes something inferior, something cheap, something sub par. The term is derived from the noun two-bits, which is a monetary figure. In America, two-bits is slang for twenty-five cents, each “bit” being equal to twelve and a half cents. These “bits” are only referred to in terms of twos, such as two bits, four bits or six bits. The use of the term bit dates back to the 1700s when Spanish and Mexican coins circulated in the English colonies. These coins were the Spanish silver reales, eight of which made up the Spanish dollar which is also known as a piece of eight. Interestingly, America’s history concerning the Spanish dollar lives on in the fossil word, two-bit. Note that the term is hyphenated, two-bit is a closed compound word.


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Examples

Of course, negotiating with China is not as simple as negotiating with a two-bit subcontractor from Nevada. (The Telegraph)
This new comedy is yet another spin on a “dysfunctional family,” with Kaitlin Olson (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) as a “two-bit hustler” who must assume the guardianship of her sister’s children. (The Seattle Times)

When he showed up on his former father-in-law’s doorstep in Madison, N.H., five days ago, Gary L. Sampson, 41, looked like what he’d been for years: a deadbeat dad, a two-bit thief, a desperate alcoholic running from a past he couldn’t bear to face. (The Boston Globe)

Congress would benefit from an authentic American and Montana cowboy, rather than those two-bit phony drug store cowboys who wear fancy cowboy boots to Washington. (The Missoulian)

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