A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 06, 2012
“Can’t rub two nickels together” (poor)

A person who “can’t rub two pennies/nickels/dimes/quarters/dollars together” is a person who doesn’t have much money. “Not in a position to rub two pennies together” has been cited in print since at least 1902, “rub two quarters together” since 1903, “can’t rub two dollars together” since 1903-04, “could not rub two nickels together” since 1919 and “couldn’t rub two dimes together “ since 1969.


Chronicling America
30 October 1902, Akron (OH) Daily Democrat, pg. 4, col. 4:
Often a man is not in a position to rub two pennies together, and if he were what would it avail him?

Chronicling America
19 April 1903, The Sun (New York, NY), “Romance of the Water Front” by Guy T. Viskniskki, Second Section, pg. 3, col. 2:
“Doesn’t pay to lose your nerve, does it? Well, I got mine back after a time, and set about rowing across here as I’d done before I could rub two quarters together; and here I am, still at it.”

Google Books
1903-1904, The Windsor Magazine, pg. 130, col. 2:
“As for that Barnegat Bay treasure, there it’s a-laying and there it’ll go on a-laying, whilst William Potsherd, who might ‘ve been a millionaire, can’t rub two dollars together.

Google Books
27 August 1919, The Herald and Presbyter, pg. p, col. 2:
Before July 1st he could not rub two nickels together.

2 August 1956 The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), “Victims Lose Weight on $64,000 Challenge” by Tom O’Malley and Bob Cunniff, pg. 24, col. 2:
Teddy can’t rub two nickels together and he’s got three kids, I think.

Google Books
The English Public School
By Vivian Ogilvie
London: Batsford
1957
Pg. 25:
It is clear, therefore, that from the start the benefits of the foundation were not confined to those who could scarcely rub two pennies together.

11 January 1965, Boston (MA) Globe, “Writers Inflate Stars’ Salaries” by Harold Kaese, pg. 13:
We can’t rub two MTA tokens together, but how we love to inflate some star’s salary.

Google Books
A History and Encyclopedia of Country, Western, and Gospel Music
By E. Linnell Gentry
Clairmont Corp.
1969
Pg. 327:
“Those boys couldn’t rub two dimes together and were bouncing around in a sorry old Forty-seven Ford with a bass fiddle strapped up on the roof.”

Google Books
My Husband, Jimmie Rodgers
By Carrie Cecil Williamson Rodgers
Nashville, TN: Country Music Foundation Press
1975
Pg. VIII:
Mostly it was Jimmie’s habitual inability to rub two nickels together; whenever he got them, he spent one and gave the other away.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • (0) Comments • Wednesday, June 06, 2012 • Permalink