[Ads-l] "dime a dozen" (1916)

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Sun Mar 10 16:32:07 UTC 2019

An early form of the expression appears to be, "not worth a dime a 
dozen".  It appears regularly beginning in the 1920s, but is older.  I 
found two early examples.

Consistent with TAD's usage in sports contexts in 1916, it appears as 
early as 1894 in connection with horse racing.

Joe Thayer, of Lexington, was offered $5,000 last week for the 
two-year-old colt Larrabie - and yet some people say trotters are not 
worth a "dime a dozen."
Kentucky Advocate (Danville, Kentucky), October 31, 1894, page 2.

In other contexts by 1913.

The New Yorker who spent $25 in court for appropriating a kiss while 
driving his car at 40 miles an hour certainly is a spendthrft.  An El 
Dorado young man who drives a car declares that kisses at more than five 
miles an hour aren't worth a dime a dozen.
Walnut Valley Times (El Dorado, Kansas), December 5, 1913, page 2.

Things priced actually priced at a dime a dozen appear as early as the 
1840s, and were still being advertised in the early 1900s.

------ Original Message ------
From: "Ben Zimmer" <bgzimmer at gmail.com>
To: ADS-L at listserv.uga.edu
Sent: 3/9/2019 2:12:59 PM
Subject: "dime a dozen" (1916)

>---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
>Subject:      "dime a dozen" (1916)
>The OED2 entry for "dime" has "a dime a dozen" = 'so plentiful as to be
>almost worthless' and the attrib. phrase "dime-a-dozen" from 1930.
>Newspaper databases reveal that Thomas A. "Tad" Dorgan was using "dime a
>dozen" as early as 1919 in his syndicated columns, typically in reference
>to boxers. Googling for Dorgan and the phrase uncovers a cartoon that he
>made in 1916, which went up for auction in 2006:
>1916 Charlie Chaplin by Tad
>A classic "Tad", as in Tad Dorgan. Shows the "Little Tramp" along with
>Tad's editor, Harry Smith. It's part of the "Outdoor Sports" series drawn
>by Tad while all were on tour in California. Inscribed to Mr. Smith, "To my
>old pal Harry Smith From Tad - 16-" Shows some "dime a dozen cowboys"
>wandering by as Charlie and Harry pose for Tad.
>Direct link to image:
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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