Date: Fri, 21 Jun 1996 13:09:37 -0500

From: Katherine Catmull kate[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]BGA.COM

Subject: Re: To drop a dime on someone

On Fri, 21 Jun 1996, Al Futrell wrote:

I like this question. In the materials on criminal argot collected from

criminals I have many instances of the term "drop" being used, but only

one where it means something similar to what I think it means in the

'drop a dime' collocation: "drop a kite."

That's interesting!

I've gotten a lot of email about this question, which I also posted to

alt.usage.english. From what I can gather, "drop a dime" meaning "to

inform" was active in the drug subculture in the late 60s and early 70s,

and has been active in some black american speech since the early or mid

80s. The only place I found it on the web, for example, was in the Rap


To drop a dime on somone would mean to give them a ten year

prison sentence (although I have never actually heard anyone say it like


I've never heard it in that sense either (though I am familiar-- from TV!

-- with "dime" meaning a ten-year sentence). I have often heard the

expression "drop a dime on him" meaning "to inform" however. What sort of

company do I keep, you may be wondering.

My suspicion is that 'drop a dime' as used in K.C.'s question might

be a Hollywood coinage dating back several decades.

Well according to Jesse Sheidlower Random House puts it back to the 60s.

I'll be so disappointed if it's a Hollywood coinage, however.

Or perhaps a


But if it was a Runyonism it would be "drop a nickel," wouldn't it? or

whatever pittance one owed a pay phone in those days . . .

Kate Catmull kate[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]