(Monty Python's Flying Circus was just added to Netflix.)

By Netflix's reckoning, S1E11 ("The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Goes to the Bathroom") has a segment called "The World of History: Social Legislation in the 18th Century" that overlays staid historical mumblings with some racy female nudity. The core of the bit centers around a series of buffoons, all professors named "Gumby," making ludicrous statements.

After statements from several of these morons, they return to Carol Cleveland in lingerie, holding up a mechanical beater, and saying (in Cleese's voice):

"One subject, four different views. 12 and 6 in a plain wrapper."

What does that mean? I'm not familiar with "12 and 6," which seems like some kind of euphemism or synecdoche.


The "12 and 6" refers to the pre-decimal currency used in the UK. Prior to February 1971 the UK pound consisted of 12 pennies (pence) to a shilling and 20 shillings to a pound. After decimalisation, there were 100 pennies (pence) to one pound and the shilling was abolished, replaced by a coin which was equal to 5 pence. Some people still referred to the new coin as a shilling, thus "keeping" 20 shillings to a pound.

12 and 6 means 12 shillings and six pence. It's the price of the item being offered. It's being offered in a plain wrapper as it's somewhat racy, and that's how materials of that nature were always sold/delivered - without any markings to identify possibly embarrassing content.

  • 1
    We didn't 'keep' 20 shillings to a pound, they were abolished entirely - whatever people over 50 continued to call them ;) – Tetsujin Oct 9 '18 at 6:45
  • You're right of course, I'm only 40 but I grew up being told a shilling was a five pence piece, so that's where my "20 = £1" correlation comes from... – Dave Oct 9 '18 at 8:59
  • Yes, they were equivalent, but the shilling went bye bye entirely - except for many years people would translate in their heads... leading to many jokes along the lines of "25p?!? That's nearly 6 quid in old money!" – Tetsujin Oct 9 '18 at 9:07

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