“a dollar waitin’ on a dime”

This phrase, which I first heard on an episode of one of Paula Deen’s cooking shows, was the catalyst for this series of posts for AlphabeThursday.

As you might guess, “a dollar waitin’ on a dime” infers that someone or something more important is waiting for someone or something less important to do something. The dime represents a person or a job with a lower pay scale compared to a dollar person or job. In the usual scheme of things you would expect that the “dollar” person controls the relationship, but it is also easy to see how a “dime” person can either expedite or hinder the dollar person’s progress. Paula Deen used the phrase because she was slower than the guest chef with her part of a recipe they were working on together.

I’ve also seen the phrase used in the context of not letting a minor expense stand in the way of progress on a larger, more expensive project. In particular, I saw several instances when manufacturing concerns were cautioned to ensure their equipment was properly maintained so it would not fail on an important job.

It took a while, but I finally managed to find a fairly contemporary quote using this phrase. According to a 1993 LA Times article, Clint Eastwood had arranged a meeting with writer John Lee Hancock to discuss the production and casting of Hancock’s screenplay for what eventually became the 1993 movie, “A Perfect World.” Eastwood had been encouraged to play the lead role himself but decided he would rather direct the production than act in it. When he arranged the meeting, Eastwood said he would bring along an actor. Arriving a bit late to the meeting where he saw Eastwood and Kevin Costner sitting together, Hancock’s reaction was:

“I looked at these guys, and I thought to myself,

‘Boy, if this isn’t a dollar waiting on a dime, I don’t know what is.'”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Posted for Jenny Matlock’s AlphabeThursday study of the letter “D.” For Round 5 of this long-running meme, I am focusing on colloquialisms and idioms—those informal words and phrases that are unique to a region or have meanings that aren’t necessarily discernible from the combined meanings of the individual words. I’m looking forward to investigating some of the words and phrases that, simultaneously, make American English so very interesting and yet so very frustrating. I hope you will enjoy these explorations as much as I do.


15 thoughts on ““a dollar waitin’ on a dime”

  1. It is amazing the way we think that the whole world is our world. This was a common phrase used in my house. I thought that my daddy created it but he was using it from my earliest memory which goes back to about 1952. We did construction work and I was always the dime making the real carpenters wait. I knew that they were the dollars.

  2. My dad always called this out when we were all going out for some occasion or other. He (and generally my brother) would be ready first and he’d be getting a little fidgety waiting for all the women to get ready – four daughters and our mom. Thanks for the laugh.

  3. I must be showing my age, I had heard this years ago, in the “proper” context. I suspect over the years I have been both the dollar and the dime. As I said eariler these are wonderful posts. Thanks

  4. I’ve never heard this expression before – thanks for the introduction. Jenny Matlock’s comment above made me laugh. I hope I’m not one of those folks!

  5. Another great one. You have such an interesting way of writing that makes the subject memorable. It is a great topic. Loved that final story.

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