Old Rope

‘Money for old rope’ is a phrase I heard many a time as I was growing up.  I thought of it as I took this picture:

This saying originates from the days of public hangings. It was a perquisite of the hangman to keep the rope used to hang his ‘customer’. The rope, however, was popular with the macabre crowds, so the hangman used to cut the rope up and sell it.

Thankfully the old rope above was used for a better purpose

11 thoughts on “Old Rope

  1. Ursula

    How very interesting. I’d always assumed the expression to come from seafaring – as your photo suggests – ie sailors selling rope worn too thin to be of any use on a ship.

    Going all “Pirates in the Caribbean” now.


  2. Nick

    Okay clever clogs where did the phrase “Money for jam” come from? It’s an odd phrase, since jam is actually quite tricky to make. “Money for weeds” would make more sense….

  3. Grannymar Post author

    Ursula – I am not surprised at your comment since everywhere you see boats you see ropes!

    Rhyleysgranny – These sayings come out once in a blue moon! A blue moon refers to the second full moon that occurs in any calendar month. On average, there will be 41 months that have two full moons in every century.

    Nick – The phrase money for jam is a term used to imply that ‘money can be made easily’. When someone objects to paying for work done eg; plumbing or woodwork, they might complain that the person gets money for jam!

  4. Ursula

    Please, Grannymar, give me some slack: I wasn’t around when hanging people was all the vogue. But there have been and are sailors, captains, fishermen in the close and wider family. I even once managed to capsize a dinghy single handedly – with the help of a (wrongly) pulled rope. Gave up sailing after that.

    Still, if you ever need a proper knot you know where to come.


  5. Grannymar Post author

    Ursula – I am not complaining, most people associate ropes with fishermen or boats.

    As a matter of interest on August 13, 1964, Peter Anthony Allen and John Alan West became the last people to be executed for murder in England. In 1965, the death penalty for murder was banned in England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland outlawed capital punishment in 1973.

  6. Magpie11

    Ursula, old rope was unpicked and used as oakum for caulking ships…that’s where I thought the saying came from until someone told me that the hangman would keep his rope and use it again and pocket the rope money…now someone tells me something different yet again!

    This came from one website:

    Rope made from hemp had a limited lifetime. When it wore out it was picked apart and recycled. It was used for caulking. Rope fibres (known as oakum) were hammered into the seams between planks of a ship and hot pitch was poured over it. This was done to waterproof the ship. Of course you got money for the old rope. The phrase came to mean money for anything (seemingly) worthless.


    Google gives 338,000 responses!

    Easy money was called ‘money for jam’. For example, The Athenaeum, 1919 – “The great use of jam in the Army … originated a number of phrases, such as ‘money for jam’ (money for nothing).”

    IIRC the idea of jam as “nothing” comes from Alice…”The rule is jam tomorrow, jam yesterday but never jam today.”

    Given the insubstantial nature of much jam the origin could be just that…money for (nothing) jam….

  7. Fran

    I remember reading a newspaper article, when the news media were all commentating about Ebay, where a reporter acquired a bundle of old rope and managed to sell it on Ebay giving him the appropriate header “Money for old rope”.
    The article covered information on the workings of Ebay however your nugget of information may prove to be more useful and will be filed in the memory banks unlike the Ebay info. Thank you.

  8. Darlene

    The origins of old sayings are as interesting as are the original reasons for nursery rhymes. It gives a whole new meaning to each of them. Maybe you should do a post on that, grannymar.

  9. Grannymar Post author

    Magpie – I always look forward to how you come up with another take on my topic.

    Fran – You are welcome.

    Darlene – I never thought about nursery rhymes and why they were invented. That is one for Magpie I think!

    Judy – We do come up with some peculiar sayings. 😉


A penny for your thoughts...