Archive for February 23rd, 2011

February 23, 2011

Drop of a dime

The Americans sure like their dimes.  Here is another idiom involving the smallest of the US coins: “at the drop of a dime”

Literally dropping dimes, pic: fallingpixel.com

If you do something at the drop of a dime you do it very fast, pretty much instantaneously, without too much thought, planning, or hesitation.  Another way of saying the same thing is “at the drop of a  hat”.

The origin of that phrase seem to be the Wild West where dropping a hat was often a sign of an imminent fight.  But then again it might also be of Irish origin where they apparently were also ready to fight without much ado.

Here are some examples:

“The situation in Libya is very volatile right now, things can change at the drop of a dime.”

I would love to fly with you to the Caribbean tomorrow but I can’t just leave at the drop of a hat.”

 
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February 23, 2011

Flocking birds

Another of these somewhat old-fashioned idioms that are good for your passive vocabulary – good to understand but not necessarily what you would use every day in your conversations with your colleagues, the cashier at Safeway or while getting your nails done.

Sea-gulls flocking together, pic: (c) Tina Baumgartner

The idiom is: “birds of a feather flock together”.  My 6-year old would be very excited now, screaming “it rhymes!”

Rhyming or not, the idiom means that people who have something in common: interests, temperament, taste, education etc. like to hang out together.

This can be good and bad – on the good side members in groups with common interests can be very tight and mutually supportive.  The negative side effects of people who think alike are obvious with groups like the Klu-Klux Klan.

The origin is obvious: birds of a single species do frequently form flocks. Ornithologists explain this behavior as a ‘safety in numbers’ tactic to reduce their risk of being caught by a predator.