cheap at half the price

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"Cheap at half the price" is the original and correct version of the saying. In Middle English, cheap, or "cheep" also meant goods or property, so the street cry, "Cheap at half the price!", was the Middle Ages' equivalent of today's shop window sign, "All stock 50% off". Chaucer uses this meaning in, "...greet cheep is holde at litel pris...". That is to say, where there is an abundance, "greet cheep" = great supply of goods, the price is low "..holde at litel price" = is valued at a low price. Possibly the earliest reference to supply and demand! The corruption, "Cheap at twice the price" would have appeared through a misunderstanding of the original meaning of "cheep".(Can this(+) etymology be sourced?)


cheap at half the price

  1. (humorous) Quite expensive.
    • 2007, Gordon Hughes, Hard Drive!: As the Disc Turns, page 76:
      After breakfast, Shirley and Gordon walked down the street to a shopping mall to look at fancy clothes and high priced jewelry. "Cheap at half the price," Gordon observed. Shirley smiled.
  2. (from misunderstanding) Satisfactorily cheap.
    • 2001, Roy Holland, C. H. Muller, Flakes of Dark and Light: Tales from Southern Africa and Elsewhere, page 110
      After he'd convinced you you'd only got one leg – the left – he'd sell you a gross of right-footed shoes. "Cheap at half the price! A real bargain." Afterwards, you'd feel you'd been done a favour to, and obligingly walk off with a limp.