"take a number"

Posted by Masakim on January 19, 2002

In Reply to: "Take a number" posted by Tiko on January 18, 2002

: : As in, "I would love to meet that sweet girl" ....

: : "Sure...take a number !"

: It means "Wait your turn" . Many bakery's have more customers waiting for service than help behind the counter. I'm sure you've seen small red plastic round-like boxes that dispense numbers for people to take and wait until "Their number is up" (another phrase from this situation). I remember when they first installed this contraption at the Department of Motor Vehicles. I went toward the counter for help and was told "Take a number, please and we'll call it when it's up". (Ok I lied they didn't say please.)

take a number sentence by 1980s Don't be impatient; take your place in line: "Tall enough to kick you in the ball," he said. "Take a number," I said -- Robert Parker [fr the practice at a busy shop or office, where petitioners are invited to take a printed number card to ensure their serial priority]
From Dictionary of American Slang by Robert L. Chapman