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From subtitles for a Russian movie. The source translated for two-bit was:

полный/последний/конченный

[English meaning totally, absolutely (something bad)] (Do you know russian word "dno"?)

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    "Two bits" is an American expression for a quarter (dollar). Hence "Two-bit" is a slang adjective meaning "of little value". It doesn't appear to be a literal translation, but expresses a judgment which is presumably elsewhere in the script, or in the setting.
    – Colin Fine
    May 6, 2019 at 18:05
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    "Two-bit" is American slang for a quarter of a dollar. By extension, it means something cheap. A "two-bit jerk" would be a petty, unpleasant person.
    – user888379
    May 6, 2019 at 18:06
  • @ColinFine You beat me by a few seconds...
    – user888379
    May 6, 2019 at 18:06
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    If you are interested in a more accurate translation, 'two-bit' doesn't seem to correspond to the original Russian. The more appropriate English would be 'total (or absolute) jerk', meaning literally that the person is all jerk. A 'two-bit' jerk would be a jerk that is of little value or negligible.
    – Mitch
    May 6, 2019 at 18:59

1 Answer 1

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"Two-bit" is an idiom meaning cheap or petty. It comes from a slang term for the American eighth of a dollar, a "bit." Even after the "bit" was phased out of the currency in 1792, the term "two-bit" persisted to refer to the quarter dollar.

A two-bit person isn't worth much. From the Oxford English Dictionary under "two, adj, n., and adv.":

1978 T. Willis Buckingham Palace Connection viii. 155 Some other two-bit General will try shooting us up.

When applied to people or things, unless it is used ironically, it is a put-down or insult, implying cheapness or low quality.

So "two-bit jerk" may mean that the character isn't of much importance and he's a jerk (i.e. he's rude or crass).

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    Side note: the British equivalent of "two-bit" is the derogatory tuppenny-ha’penny, an abbreviation of "two-and-a-half pence." You’d think he’d lost a Rolex rather than that tuppenny-ha’penny old watch of his. It's not heard much these days. May 6, 2019 at 18:39
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    @WeatherVane Brits abbreviate "two-and-a-half-pence" with a phrase that's longer?
    – David Rice
    May 6, 2019 at 20:57
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    Also because tuppeny-ha'penny is pronounced with four syllables, not six. (tup-nee hape-nee) May 6, 2019 at 21:12
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    pre-decimal there were smaller coins than the penny, ie: ha'penny and farthing
    – Jasen
    May 6, 2019 at 21:47
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    @supercat Decimal half pence were in circulation up till 1984. May 6, 2019 at 22:24

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