The E-Sylum:  Volume 6, Number 7, February 16, 2003, Article 5


  Eric Newman writes: "As to the meaning of the word "chits",
  I have in my library A TRIAL LISTING OF MILITARY
  CHITS (St.Louis, MO 1969) written by Ruth W. Hill.  It is
  20 pages plus a a 1969 amendment.  I cannot get to it at this
  time but she was an accurate writer and many of the foreign
  paper money group knew her well. Perhaps she commented
  on the matter there."

  Mike Metras writes: "Chuck Ambrass asks what a "chit" is.
  When I was in Asmara, Eritrea, in the late '60s in the army,
  in order to control the money flow somewhat our Enlisted
  Men's  and Non-Commissioned Officer's clubs had $5
  books of coupons, little 3/4" by 1-1/2" or so paper coupons,
  that the waiters tore out to when we bought things. They
  were in 5, 10, 25 and maybe 50 cent denominations if I
  remember correctly.  The official name on the booklet called
  them "coupons," but we called these little coupons "chits"
  and the books that held them, "chit books."  I have no idea
  if they have a more numismatic designation as I never have
  formally collected them. I just have my few. We had to buy
  the books at a special window in the club.

  If you want to see what mine look like, I have included
  them in my CD-ROM book, "Ethiopia: Travels of a Youth."
  Although the text of this book is available on my web site,
  there is only a thumbnail version of most of the pictures. But
  you can see the chits well enough. You can see them at This page
  has a lot of graphics so it takes it a while to load. But click on
  the Kagnew Station link or scroll down to that title.  The chit
  thumbnail is the 17th in the Kagnew Station chapter. (If you
  had the full version of the book, clicking here would take you
  the full size version, but the online version has no large pictures.)

  If someone wants to see a larger version of this one or of the ]
  cover (the image next to the chits). I'd be glad to put the larger
  versions somewhere on my site or to email them copies of the
  jpg files. (Of course, one is always welcome to buy the book
  too. :) )  My email addresses is""

  Ron Haller-Williams writes: "I think I can help, being in
  England and having heard the word "chitty" used many times,
  but only by people who had served in India during World War
  II (or occasionally by people from the Indian sub-continent) -
  provided we forget about Ian Fleming's story of an old,
  restored car ("Chitty Chitty Bang Bang").

  It appeared to mean "receipt", or almost any other form of
  official piece of paper that might be needed either for proof
  of entitlement to certain goods/services or for subsequent
  handling of paperwork. This might include a requisition form
  for ordering supplies from the stationery or other materials
  repository, leading to the "Catch-22" situation for newcomers
  that they cannot put in an order, even for a pad of requisition
  forms, without a "chitty";  hence the first order form used
  would need to be begged from a kindly colleague!

  Chambers' Twentieth Century Dictionary, 1952 edition,

  chit - (noun) a short informal letter;  an order or pass.
      Also "chitty".   [Hindi "chitthi"]

  Collins English Dictionary, 1994 edition, gives:

   chit - (noun)
       1. a voucher for a sum of money owed, especially for
           food or drink.
       2. Also called "chitty" (chiefly British)
           (a) a note or memorandum
           (b) a requisition or receipt

         [18th century; from earlier "chitty", from Hindi
          "cittha"  = note, from Sanskrit "citra" = brightly-coloured]

  So, depending on the usage of the actual "chitty" itself, it may
  or may not need to be signed, and may well not have a
  "redemption value" (if it is a pass, a receipt, or a requisition
  or order for supplies).

  I would only expect it to be of card or cardboard, rather than
  paper, if it is a reusable or "permanent" voucher (e.g. for
  canteen meal/s), or a "pass" of longer duration than, say, a
  week-end. And nowadays some of these might even be
  laminated with plastic."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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