Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Guineas



More from my past...

Here I am, a long-haired student radical vintage 1969, being paid in guineas by the BBC.

I did a bit of Googling. The UK finally decimalised in February 1971 and that finally killed off the guinea in all but the most closed circles (livestock, horse racing).

The guinea was a mark of social distinction; as one website (www.clarahost.co.uk) puts it, "You paid a tradesman in pounds but a gentleman in guineas".

Thus, the BBC treated me as a gentleman - though it felt the need to spell out what ten guineas amounted to and I guess that by 1969 sometimes it did employ persons who had not been well brought up and who needed the explanation. Despite my lack of upbringing, I am sure I behaved well on screen; I have no memory of the occasion.

At the bottom of the contract, my name is given as "Trevor Pateman, Esq." You still occasionally see that and you even see worse:

Go to easyjet or Ryanair and you can book yourself in under a rather limited range of titles - not much more than Mr, Mrs and Ms. Go to British Airways and you can luxuriate in 14 choices of title. It's almost worth booking just to be a Lord for a day.

The guinea may be dead, but Ruritania still knows how to do social distinction

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