flips and gasmeters

Gregory {Greg} Downing gd2 at NYU.EDU
Thu Mar 8 19:29:39 UTC 2001

At 12:45 PM 3/8/2001 -0500, "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET> wrote:
>the real 'word' on these oddities?

Isn't it true that in the case of Slim Gaillard's songs the joke is often
that the slang is made up and hence a kind of impenetrable double-talk?
Here's a quick clip from a website bio:

"Much of their [Slim and Slam's] repertoire was original material with
lyrics conceived in Gaillard's personal version of the currently popular
'jive talk', which on his lips developed extraordinary surrealist overtones.
Gaillard's language, which he named 'Vout' or 'Vout Oreenie', helped the duo
achieve a number of hit records, including 'Flat Foot Floogie'."

Plenty of prior posters have made context-based guesses about "flips" and
"gasmeters" -- i.e., context suggests that the former is a smaller
denomination and the latter a larger denomination of money (as someone
already noted, a gas meter, like a large bill, displays a multi-figure
number). I bet there are books and email lists devoted to Slim and Slam and
their lyrics, as there are for virtually all well-known recording artists --
so there may even be some solid source of information available on these lyrics.

Meanwhile, FWIW or not, Partridge mentions that "flip" as a noun can mean
(among other things) a tip/gratuity/bribe or a trivial thing. Both meanings
predate the song in question, but Partridge makes no comments about
geographical distribution. I.e., who knows if these meanings were known
outside the UK and feed into Gaillard's "flip" or not. "Flip" (cf. fillip)
has long meant something quick or momentary (a blow, a flash or flicker).
This general semantic range may have fed into the hapax and/or "jive"
meaning, "small denomination of money," and likewise into the two meanings
cited above from Partridge.

Greg Downing, at greg.downing at nyu.edu or gd2 at nyu.edu

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