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flip side of the coin

Posted by Anders on November 20, 2003

In Reply to: Re: As to coins... posted by R. Berg on November 20, 2003

: : : : : : : : : : : What is the meaning and origin of "flip side"? Thanks.

: : : : : : : : : : It comes, I believe, from those old-fashioned things (pre-CD, pre-tape, pre-reel-to-reel, and pre-8-track tape) called records -- used to be played on record players. The disks have two sides -- on a 45 RPM disk, sides A & B. The song that the record company wanted to promote most heavily would go on the A side. So when a DJ played that side, he'd (they were always "he" back then) sometimes say, "And now on the flip side...", and play side B, the lesser known track.

: : : : : : : : : Oh, Lord, I'm getting old.

: : : : : : : : Me, too. Oy. There is another use of flip side, derived from the gone-and-best-forgotten CB radio fad of the '70s, (Do they still exist?) Long-distance truckers, and trucker wannabes, speaking from truck-to-truck. "Catch you on the flip side" was CB slang for "I'll contact you on the return trip" ... the metaphor of a record turning being applied to you trip from Point B back to A.

: : : : : : : Typewriters. That's another thing that now seems so exotic and outdated to the young. I gather the young ones around and tell them of olden days when we had to use White-Out to correct mistakes. One young man of my acquaintance asked where you load the paper in a typewriter.

: : : : : :
: : : : : : My hand moving toward the sharpened quill resting on the inkwell stand in front of the blotting paper pad on my desk is enough to drain the blood from the face of even my most troublesome employees - they know I mean business, for when my moving hand has writ there is no 'white out', delete, backspace or emergency 'ctrl alt del' function that can take back a word of it.

: : : : : I am surprised to see that nobody disputes this suggested origin. Really, the GRAMOPHONE is not that old. I can imagine the expression being derived from just about anything you can flip. Such as a coin. The obverse is the front side of a coin. But what about the obverse of the obverse, i.e. the back side - does it have a name that is equally fancy? You could call it the flip side, of course - only this is not fancy - a fortiori, the flip side is rather always the other side, not any particular side (when speaking of coins). Or don't you agree? To imagine something to be the case is not the same as saying that it actually is thus and so. So really what I'm offering is not so much a statement as a question: are you sure the expression originates with records?
: : : : : Anders

: : : : I am away from most of my library now. But I'll research it and get back to you. If someone else doesn't beat me to it.

: : : At least one source agrees with the record theory.

: : : Flip side -- The song on the reverse side of a record. From "Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang" by Tom Dalzell (Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Md., 1996)

: : While one does "flip" a coin, I've never heard "the flip side" used to refer to coins. It's heads or tails. Or, another way, imagine an (American) English conversation: "Which side ya lookin' at?" "Heads." "How 'bout the other side?" That's possible, too.

: : It sounds logical to use "flip side" in relation to coins, but this is one of those times where usage seemingly trumps logic.

: Anders, the back side of a coin is called the "reverse," as the front is called the "obverse." I've never heard "flip side" used of coins.

The American Heritage Dictionary agrees with you, giving the phonograph record as the origin. However, it may interest you to know that "flip side of the coin" has more than ten thousand hits on Google, cf. link. On the other hand, Google has 791 hits for "flip side of the moon," an object not easily flippable - a fact that cautions you against taking your cues from Google. To paraphrase: As heads is tails, just call it Lucifer, 'cause it's in need of some restraint!