Actually, "two bits" is twenty-five cents, not fifty. The American "dollar" derived from the silver Spanish "dollar", which was a silver coin, also called a "peso", that was worth eight reales (and thus the term "pieces-of-eight"). A "bit" was thus one real, or an eighth of a piece/peso, and a quarter-dollar was the equivalent of the Spanish coin that was worth two reales, or "two bits".
Something that is described as "two-bit" is being called cheap, petty, and of little importance.
Actually, I believe "two bits" was most commonly used to mean "25 cents" in 20th Century AE, 8 pieces being the equivalent of a dollar, a reference to "pieces of eight." School cheers back in the Dark Ages used to run, "two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar..."
Kind of reminds of the sort of lingo used in the movie/book the Outsiders(Greasers= hoods, Socs = preps), hence the one of the character's nicknames being "Two-Bit"(sort of reclaiming the degoratory reference).
Yes, I was mistaken. I've just been reading Ellison's Invisible Man and for some reason he equated "two bits" with fifty cents. I may have misread that particular sentence. Perhaps he was using the figurative sense of "two bits" and I took it to be literal. With that fresh in my mind, I guess I forgot the actual value of a bit. Maybe I can blame inflation.
I presume your question is something like Could someone please explain to me what 'two-bit' means here? (We are not an automated robotic answering service, but rather a group of volunteers who answer questions)
Merry Christmas everybody! I think pall would like to say that the "two bit-dictators" are exactly "petty" rather than making a question to the Forum. Political discussion is not allowed here, mate(and quite rightly). It was an epicrisis in my opinion from pall's part. Whether it is having a connection to my question or not, it's not my authority to tell so. Have a wonderful time and thank you all for responding to this thread.