flips and gasmeters

George Thompson gt1 at NYU.EDU
Tue Mar 6 21:03:30 UTC 2001

I was listening to a song last night recorded by Slim and Slam (Slim
Gaillard and Slam Stewart) in November, 1941.  The song was "A Tip on
the Numbers", and it consists of a set of strongly rythmical rhymed
couplets recommending numbers suitable for betting.  In the middle there
is a spoken vaudeville-like routine in which Slim asks Slam whether he
will be playing the numbers today; Slam gives an unintelligible reply
that indicates that he has no money.  Slim answers "I lay a couple of
flips on ya, that's a killer?"  Slam says "I need a couple of
gasmeters".  I do not know either of these words and don't find them in
HDAS.  They are evidently the names for denominations of coins, and a
gasmeter must be worth more than a flip.  (Flip might be transcribed
"fillip", though it didn't sound so; I have no doubt about "gasmeter".)
 Both "flip" and "fillip" are known as meaning "something of very little
value", but I don't find either referring to a small coin.  I believe
that in the 30s and 40s at least, numbers bankers would take bets of a
penny.  I also know that in the 30s, apartments might receive the supply
of gas for cooking or heating through a coin operated meter, but I
associate this with English novels and memoirs.  If such meters were
used in the US also, then a "gasmeter" might be a coin of sufficient
value to use in one.

"Killer" was a general term of approbation.

I was listning to a CD set "Slim and Slam: Complete Recordings,
1938-1942", Affinity AFS1034-3.

For those of you interested in investment advice: Slim recommends 284 on
Monday, 825 or Tuesday, then 486, 328, 061 and on Saturday 369.

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