In a TOEFL conversation, the professor said: "If you're a copper miner, you won't lose any sleep should the penny get – if you'll excuse the expression – pinched out of existence."

I am confused by the use of "should" here, as a proper way I would think of is to put "should" after penny – you won't lose any sleep the penny should get – so why is it the case?

By the way, what does the professor mean why he said "the penny get pinched out of existence”?

  • 3
    The phrase "should the penny get..." means "if the penny is..." and for the second question, the professor is making a play on the phrase penny-pinching. May 29, 2020 at 13:46
  • You won't lose any sleep [] the penny [should] get pinched out of existence is ungrammatical. The original location of should is normal. But if you want to explain why you think it belongs in the other location, there might be some way of addressing that thought—or rephrasing things where the new location could be grammatical. May 29, 2020 at 16:40

1 Answer 1


This use of "should the penny get" means essentially "if the penny got". ("Should XXX get" is a bit of an idiom, and there's no direct replacement for "should" that I can think of.)

"Penny pinching" is another idiom, referring to stinginess.

  • Though that's not the way it's being used here. May 29, 2020 at 15:31
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth - Which "it"? Obviously, "penny pinching" is being used as a pun of sorts.
    – Hot Licks
    May 29, 2020 at 16:07

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