Gas meters and flips

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 30 18:38:05 UTC 2008

Your guess is as good as mine. "Flips" as hands makes sense to me in
the relevant context.

The duo was "Slim and Slam" [Stewart], the latter known for humming
along as he bowed his bass fiddle. That made for a weirdly-interesting
sound. In fact, he does a brief bit of his thing a few grooves before
the end of the jam.

Gaillard uses the phrase, "get down heavy." That's probably ancestral
to the Saint Louis "P down heavy" = "engage in a serious bout of
sexual intercoarse." The _P_ stands for "pussy," of course.

The words are actually:

"Look here, _gate_, ..."

[Because he swings]


"I got a deuce of flips I'll lay on you. _Is that a killer_ (= okay)?"

[Here, "killer" is a clip of "killer-diller." At one time,
"killer-diller" was so hip that my mother and other women of similar
age, education (AB, MPSW), and social class still regularly use it in
their everyday speech.. Killer Dillon was a comic-strip character.
IIRC, he was the nemesis of Fearless Fosdick.

["Killer-diller" lives on, in its clipped form, at least, to this very
day. "Killer" as a term of address has never gone out of fashion,
"What's up, killer?" being as "fresh" as "What's up, G?", "What's up,
  money?", etc. No doubt, today's speakers think of it as being used
in its literal meaning. I know its history only because I'm
(un?)fortunately old enough to have been was around when "killer" was
still being used interchangeably with "killer-diller" by the daughters
of black clergymen, doctors, lawyers, funeral directors, etc., who
would never have had a reason to think of "killer" in its literal
meaning. Some here may recall that The Honeydripper was a killer:
"He's a killer! / The Honeydripper!"]

"A deuce of flips?"


 _Well, uh, well, uh_, I'll tell you, old man, ..."

I don't think that there's any implied antagonism in the side, though
it does seem possible to me that "flips" could very well mean "hands."

You never know.


On Tue, Apr 29, 2008 at 5:27 PM, Grant Barrett
<gbarrett at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>  Poster:       Grant Barrett <gbarrett at WORLDNEWYORK.ORG>
>  Subject:      Gas meters and flips
>  -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>  I've got a query from a fellow who's got an R&B radio show (online
>  only, I think) and wants to puzzle out some of the lyrics to a song
>  called  "A Tip On The Numbers" which was released by Slim Gaillard &
>  His Flat Foot Floogie Boys in 1941. Slim was also part of the duo Sam
>  and Slim. They show up in the Black newspapers as early as 1938.
>  The song is about the numbers game, a form of gambling that's very
>  much like the Pick 3 you can now legally play in state lotteries. Slim
>  sings a few numbers to play on certain days of the week, and then at
>  about 1:13 there's a spoken bit that includes this exchange:
>  [quote]
>  Look here, [?], you got a couple of gas meters you can lay on me, you
>  know?
>  Gas meters! A gas meter?
>  Gas meter.
>  I got a deuce of flips I'll lay on ya. [?]
>  A deuce of flips! Unh unh. Well, I'll tell ya old man, I need a couple
>  of GAS meters.
>  [end quote]
>  The questions: what is "flip"?
>   From context surrounding this quote, it's clear they're talking about
>  money. The song's about gambling, for one thing. For another, in the
>  part after the quote above, one fellow tells the other that he's just
>  received his welfare check.
>  I agree with my correspondent that "gas meter" is a quarter, because,
>  as he says, you used to have to put money in the gas meter on the
>  house in order to get any gas out of it. Clarence Major's "Dictionary
>  of Afro-American Talk" includes that meaning and dates it to the
>  1940s. A quote from Helen Trace Tysell's "The English of the Comic
>  Cartoons" in American Speech (vol. 10, no. 1, Feb. 1935, p. 53) adds a
>  bit of confirmation that gas meters took quarters: "That dog-goned gas
>  meter swallers quarters like a elephant swallers peanuts."
>  My correspondent also believes that a "flip" is a coin but he's not
>  sure of the denomination, except that, if "gas meter" is a quarter,
>  then a "flip" is probably a smaller coin. It makes me think of penny-
>  pitching, but that's only a guess. Green's Cassell's Dictionary of
>  Slang includes "flip"="a bribe or tip. [one 'flips' the recipient a
>  coin]" but who can say if it's pertinent?
>  I suppose that "flip" could be a clipping of "flipper"=hand and the
>  one fellow could be telling the other when he says "I got a deuce of
>  flips," more or less, "I'm not giving you money but I've got nothing
>  but a pair of empty hands (that I'll smack you around with)."
>  I've checked HDAS, DARE, Gold's Jazz Lexicon, the American Thesaurus
>  of Slang, a few other dictionaries and a few of the newspaper
>  databases but I'm not coming up with anything convincing.
>  I've uploaded the song so you can hear it:
>  Thanks, in any case.
>  Grant Barrett
>  gbarrett at
>  113 Park Place, Apt. 3
>  Brooklyn, NY 11217
>  (646) 286-2260
>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>  The American Dialect Society -

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
 -Sam'l Clemens

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list