Reference > Brewer’s Dictionary > Cross and Pile.

 Cross and Ball,Cross as a Bear, 
E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Cross and Pile.
Money; pitch and toss. Hilaire le Gai tells us that some of the ancient French coins had a cross, and others a column, on the reverse; the column was called a pile, from which comes our word “pillar,” and the phrase “pile-driving.” Scaliger says that some of the old French coins had a ship on the reverse, the arms of Paris, and that pile means “a ship,” whence our word “pilot.”   1
        “A man may now justifiably throw up cross and pile for his opinions.”—Locke: Human Understanding.
   Cross or pile. Heads or tails. The French say pile ou face. The “face” or cross was the obverse of the coin, the “pile” was the reverse; but at a later period the cross was transferred to the reverse, as in our florins, and the obverse bore a “head” or “poll.”   2
“Marriage is worse than cross I win, pile you lose.”
Shadwell: Epsom Wells.
   Cross nor pile. I have neither cross nor pile. Not a penny in the world. The French phrase is, “N’avoir ni croix ni pile” (to have neither one sort of coin nor another).   3
“Whacum had neither cross nor pile.”
Butler: Hudibras, part ii. 3.

 Cross and Ball,Cross as a Bear, 


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