Adventures in Cultural Confusion: The Guy Fawkes Version

When I was a college exchange student in Lancaster, England (well before the film V for Vendetta, I should note) I was walking out of the Boots department store when a girl came up to me.

“Penny for the guy,” she said.


“Penny for the guy.”

“What guy?” I asked.

She flashed me the culturally universal expression for “duh”  Then she pointed to a scarecrow leaning against a bench.

“Penny for the guy,” she said again.

That guy is dead, I thought.  We stood there for a moment blinking at one another, her small hand outstretched.

“You want me to give you a penny for that guy?” I asked.

“Well, some people give me 20p or 50p.”

I understood that the scarecrow would not be shopping and did not need a penny, much less 50p.  I also understood from the girl’s expression that her baffling request had some context that made it perfectly standard and normal and that it was my confused reaction that was odd.  I reached into my pocket and gave her a silver coin. 

“For the guy,” I said, putting an end to the exchange.

I would ask someone later.


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