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At various times I've supposed the informal Australian phrase “not for quids” (which apparently is analogous to “not at any price”) derives from quid, which refers to sovereigns, or guineas. At other times I've imagined it derives from quid pro quo, “This for that”. What evidence is available about the origin of “not for quids”?

Note, quoting from the Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, thefreedictionary says the following of “not for quids”:

If you say that you would not do something for quids, you mean that you would hate to do that thing [eg] I wouldn't do your job for quids.

  • "Quid" (money) is widely believed to derive from "quid pro quo" anyway. – MetaEd Dec 30 '12 at 20:24
  • @MετάEd OED says origin uncertain. The term quid is very much in use in the UK, Aus and Nz as colloquial for a pound in the same way buck is for a dollar. – spiceyokooko Dec 30 '12 at 20:29
  • Yes, origin uncertain, which is why I wrote "is widely believed" and posted as a comment. But a lot of people do believe "quid" (pound) came from "quid pro quo". – MetaEd Dec 30 '12 at 20:40
  • @MετάEd, I've added a separate question re quid itself. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Dec 30 '12 at 20:45
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Not for quids is similar to not for love nor/or money:

if you say that you cannot or will not do something for love nor money, you mean that it is impossible to do or that you will not do it whatever happens It's incredibly popular. You can't get tickets for love nor money. He's hopeless and unreliable. I wouldn't give him a job for love nor money.

The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Uncoventional English (2008) says:

Quids noun a large amount of money AUSTRALIA, 1930not for quids not for anything AUSTRALIA, 1947

This is from the monetary quid, which was the Australian pound (fixed in value to the pound sterling) at that time, and not sovereigns or guineas.

I found a 27 January 1947 example in The Sydney Morning Herald, an instalment from Esther Roland's novel I Camp Here:

"I'll swap you jobs," Garth said, hitching at his trousers.

"Not for quids," grinned Jack. "I don't like the way the snorty ones fizz down your neck as you sit there."

I found an earlier example from 1921 in Beauty and Nick by Philip Gibbs (read online; first published 1914):

"Can you give me her private address?" asked Bristles.

"Not for quids," said the man. "It's as much as my job is worth to give any lady's private address."

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As with many slang terms this originated in the WW I trenches as a way for Aussie and Kiwis to communicate in a language the French and English couldn't understand. The original saying is "wouldn't be dead for quids" meaning 'I'm having a good day' or 'I'm doing well'. So much slang can be traced back to warfare, there are many books written on the subject.

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    That's an interesting observation. Can you cite a reference or two? If you can give it more credibility, I'm sure more here would find it interesting and relevant. – D Mac Jun 12 at 16:00

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