When people call for the “lattice or the eagle” what are they doing?
They are calling the flip of a kopeck coin—in Russia. When we flip a coin, we call out “heads or tails.” For centuries most American and British coins have featured a head of state on one side of the coin—so our call is obvious. When the coin flipped comes from another country, however, the terminology changes. When the kopeck is flipped, the choice is “lattice or eagle.” The figure on one side is a monogram of the ruler, but to the common people it was viewed as a lattice—the other side has a Russian eagle. Other countries—other choices: in Hungary it is “head or script.” The Germans say “head or number,” the Spaniards and Italians “head or cross”, the Irishmen “head or harps”, the Greeks “crown or script”, and the ancient Romans called out, “ship or head.”