- a bad penny always turns up
- The proverb, also used allusively in simile and metaphor (see quot. 1766), refers to the predictable, and usually unwelcome, return of a disreputable or prodigal person after some absence.
1766 A. ADAMS in L. H. Butterfield et al. Adams Family Correspondence (1963) I. 55 Like a bad penny it returnd, to me again.
1824 SCOTT Redgauntlet II. ii. Bring back Darsie? little doubt of that—the bad shilling is sure enough to come back again.
1884 R. H. THORPE Fenton Family iii. Just like as not he’ll be coming back one of these days, when he’s least wanted. A bad penny is sure to return.
1922 JOYCE Ulysses 149 Who’s dead, when and what did he die of? Turn up like a bad penny.
1941 A. UPDEGRAFF Hills look Down vi. ‘I miss Bart.’ ‘Oh, a bad penny always turns up again.’
1979 G. MITCHELL Mudflats of Dead iii. ‘Stop worrying. The bad pennies always turn up.’ ‘Oh, Adrian, I don’t think she’s a bad penny, not really.’
Proverbs new dictionary.