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There is the following sentence in the New York Time’s (July 24) article titled, “A Chinese gold standard?” written by its Op-Ed Contributor, Kwasi Kwarteng.

“For most of the 19th century the British pound had been the world’s “reserve currency," the currency in which trade and finance were denominated. “As sound as a pound” became a widely used expression. The pound was pegged to gold at a fixed rate of just under £4 per ounce”. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/25/opinion/a-chinese-gold-standard-renminbi.html

I am interested in finding out whether the idiom, “As sound as a pound” still holds its currency today or not, when the pound has given its post as the key currency to US Dollar, with Chinese Yuan at its heels now.

Although the author says “As sound as a pound” was a widely used expression, Google Ngram doesn’t show the record of any incidence of “As sound as a pound, ” over the past 170 years, but Urban dictionary gives the definition of this phrase as:

“The word sound showing approval and acknowledgement and pound to show whatever you are referring to. Therefore showing approval towards something. Originally from the days when the pound coin was introduced was said around London as there was a good exchange rate. Example: "The party was sound as a pound". Showing good humored feelings towards it.

Was the expression, “As sound as a pound” popular as the NYT article writer says, and still is current? If not, what word can I substitute for “Pound” with, e.g. dollar, gold, Federal Reserve Bank or something else to express a 100 % assurance by using 'sound as X' pattern?

BTW. We have a Japanese cliché to express a 100 per cent certainty – 大地を槌で叩くより確か- as sound (certain) as the chances of your hitting the ground with your hammer without miss.

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+1 for the question, -1 for the pun. – keshlam Jul 25 '14 at 2:43
That Urban Dictionary definition, like most of them, is total nonsense. The pound coin wasn't introduced until 1983 and exchange rates were terrible then. For example, in 1981, £1 was worth about US$2.40; by 1983, it was down at about $1.60 (i.e., the "sound" pound had lost a third of its value against the dollar in two years) and was tanking its way down to near parity in 1985. – David Richerby Jul 25 '14 at 8:18
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Sound as a pound:

if something is as sound as a pound, it is very good or reliable.

Ngram shows that the expression sound as a pound was popular in the 40s and 50s, but it is less common now.

The expression sound as a dollar, which has always been more popular in US, seems to be the most common expression nowadays.

sound as a dollar: see Ngram

  • very secure and dependable. (*Also: as ~.) This investment is as sound as a dollar. I wouldn't put my money in a bank that isn't sound as a dollar.

Source:McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs.

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Strange. Google Books Ngram viewer on my PC (books.google.com/ngrams/…) responds that "No valid ngrams to plot! Ngrams not found," to both 'sound as a pound,' and 'as sound as a pound.' – Yoichi Oishi Jul 25 '14 at 3:41
I saw your Google Book Ngram chart showing the emergence and currency of "sound as a dollar" ever since mid 1800s, while mine shows no track record of the same idiom. Really strange. – Yoichi Oishi Jul 25 '14 at 6:30

As long as we're consulting the nGram oracle, this one suggests that even though the phrase took a beating in the two World Wars and Great Depression, good as gold continues to reflect a popular preference for precious metals over fiat currencies.

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Another phrase that comes to mind is rock solid. Here are its definitions from Collins English Dictionary.


  1. very hard ⇒ "Freeze it until firm but not rock solid."
  2. extremely reliable ⇒ "a man of rock-solid integrity" ⇒ "The firm is rock-solid financially."

This appears to be a new phrase. Looking at its use at Google Ngram, it's taken on an exponential growth since 1980.

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