flips and gasmeters

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Mar 8 17:45:28 UTC 2001

>"Brother, can you spare a dime?"

In the "Slim and Slam" song, the offer is "I'll lay a deuce of flips on
you, is that a killer?" = "I'll give you two flips, wouldn't that be fine?"
as I understand it. Maybe there's some irony or sarcasm here; the response
is "Flips?!" ... but I have trouble picturing a total sum of a dime or less
being presented in this way.

In the "brother" quotation (Bing Crosby song, I think), I believe the
context is one of panhandling ca. 1932, with the implication that a dime
was a small sum which one might give to a stranger on the street; probably
it seemed a little smaller yet by 1940.

So according to my reasoning "flip" = "penny" or "nickel" is not apt;
"flip" = "dime" seems very dubious -- a borderline case. "Flip" = "quarter"
sounds better, but "flip" = "coin" (ambiguous but perhaps referring to a
quarter in this example) sounds better still ... to me.

Just unsupported speculation, still. Don't any of the local savants have
the real 'word' on these oddities?

-- Doug Wilson

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