Posted by Barry on January 01, 2000
In Reply to: "Stop on a dime" posted by ESC on December 31, 1999
: : Where did this expression originate?
: : Any ideas? Thanks!
: : These people were no help at all.
: : They do have good ideas and recipes though.
: : http://auburn.nu/board/display.cgi?read=136900/
: : http://auburn.nu/board/
: No luck so far. I haven't found "stop on a dime" in my reference books. I have a vague memory of an old tire commercial on TV...rainy night and a car stopping on a dime. But the phrase is probably older than that.
Amongst the over 50s here in London SWI it's common to hear a braggart exclaim "It stops on a sixpence" when discussing the stopping power of his favourite automobile - 'car' even. Now for those who don't know what a sixpence is (or was), and that includes more than 50% of the UK population, then I can tell you that it is was a small silver coloured coin (real 100% silver pre 1915), worth 2.5% of 1UK pound and about the size of a dime. Now at one time there were 4 US dollars to the pound sterling - probably pre WWII - which would make the sixpence and the dime equivalent in buying power.
This relationship is now becoming eerily significant and I intend to devote the rest of this bright millennium morning to uncovering how this standard stopping distance test was calibrated and how, when it left the shores of the USA (disguised as the humble sixpence) and headed toward the UK all knowledge of it was lost to the New World and it now only survives as a fragmented memory in the minds of a few crusty old folk in the England.
On the other hand I might just take some medication for my ailing organs and retire to bed for a few more hours.