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What does this mean? I'm English and I've never come across the meaning!

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I'm slightly surprised, as this is a British expression. :) –  Noldorin Jan 17 '11 at 14:31
    
exactly, i've never thought to ask –  benhowdle89 Jan 17 '11 at 14:36
    
Fair enough. There are certainly many niche quotes and slang words I've heard but am not familiar with... –  Noldorin Jan 17 '11 at 14:44
    
This might help: proverbhunter.com/in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound –  Banago Jun 5 '12 at 2:27
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4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In for a penny, in for a pound (idiom):

"If something is worth doing then it is a case of in for a penny, in for a pound, which means that when gambling or taking a chance, you might as well go the whole way and take all the risks, not just some."

Americanized form: "In for a dime, in for a dollar."

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Is the American version common? I have only every heard the English version, even in Australia where we've had dollars since '66. –  dave Jan 17 '11 at 17:39
    
@dave No, you only hear the English one. –  tchrist Jun 5 '12 at 3:00
    
I am in the U.S., and I don't think I've ever heard the American version. I would understand it if it was used, though. –  JLG Jun 5 '12 at 3:00
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It's an idiom for indicating that you might as well commit fully to the venture being referenced.

That's my take on it anyway.

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What it actually means is related to crime: if you steal a penny and will go to jail for it, you may as well steal a pound. Either way you're in as in in jail (or gaol, depending on which side of the Atlantic will be prosecuting you). It obviously hails from a time when a penny and a pound were worth much more than they are today.

So if you've already violated a principle to any degree, it doesn't matter how far you go past the violation threshold, so you may as well derive maximum benefit.

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And your evidence that this is necessarily to do with crime or violation? I think you are confusing it with "May as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb". –  Colin Fine Jan 17 '11 at 16:47
    
@Colin Fine: Perhaps we're both right. The sense given in Wiktionary (see also dictionary.reference.com/browse/in+for+a+penny,+in+for+a+pound) is "Originally with reference to the fact that if one owed a penny, one might as well owe a pound, as the penalties for non-payment were virtually identical in severity." This is from a time when debtors was tantamount to crime, and owing money could land you in the slammer. I've always heard it used in the "hanged for a sheep" context. But I'll admit the distinction may be blurred. –  Robusto Jan 17 '11 at 17:22
    
Yes, but you've added the "in" = "in jail" to this, which I believe is unwarranted. –  Colin Fine Jan 18 '11 at 11:23
    
@Colin Fine: The penalties spoken of above involving being in jail, so I believe it is warranted. –  Robusto Jan 18 '11 at 16:32
    
Not in what you've quoted, they don't. To me "in for a penny" is the same kind of "in" as "Right, we're going to play poker/go for a drive/have dinner/rob a bank. Who's in?", and I want evidence before I accept that it is anything to do with jail. –  Colin Fine Jan 18 '11 at 17:20
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I've also heard the related proverb (with a slightly different twist, though): “he that steals an egg will steal an ox”.

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protected by RegDwigнt Jun 5 '12 at 8:45

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