As Good As Gold

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As Good As Gold : Phrases


Well-behaved and obedient.



'As X as Y' similes usually compare someone or something with some property of an item that is well-known to exhibit that property. For example:

Her dress was as white as snow.
Alike as two peas in a pod.

In this case things are a little different. Gold isn't well-known to be either well-behaved or obedient. Here 'good' means genuine - not counterfeit.

When banknotes (known as bills in the USA and some other countries) were first introduced they weren't considered to be money in the sense we now think of them. They were promissory notes or IOUs. Gold or silver was real money as it had intrinsic value. Notes were just promises to pay in coin. UK banknotes, like those of many other countries, still include messages like this, signed by the Chief Cashier of the Bank of England: 'I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of ten pounds'.

So, 'as good as gold' ought really to be 'as genuine as gold', but the more usual meaning of 'good' has taken precedence over the years and left us with the usual meaning of the phrase.

As these similes go, it isn't especially old and is first recorded in Thomas Hood's Lost Heir, 1845:

"Sitting as good as gold in the gutter."

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