In The Greatest Showman there's a song set in a bar where PT and Philip are negotiating whether or not Philip will join the show, and there is a lyric I don't understand.

First they're singing about percentages "I wasn't born this morning, eighteen will be just fine" and then they say something about the nickel in a dime?

I'm not American but I know that a dime is a coin? Is there a certain amount of nickel in it? What does this line mean?

  • Reminds of Punisher's TV show: Castle: One Batch, Two Batch. Penny and Dime...
    – Nigel Fds
    May 24, 2018 at 2:15
  • A nickel is also a US coin. Worth $0.05 compared to a dime's $0.10. Oct 2, 2018 at 16:22

2 Answers 2


The line is

I wasn't born this morning, eighteen would be just fine.

Why not just go ahead and ask for nickels on the dime?

Both "nickels" and "dimes" are common names for coins in the US, 5 cent coins and 10 cent coins respectively.

It probably scans better for the writer than 50 cents on the dollar.

The expression means paying or receiving less than full value...similar to "pennies on the dollar"

Essentially "nickels on the dime" means "why not ask for half"!

  • 1
    I would take it even further and suggest that since nickels is plural and dime is singular, the character is saying "why not take the whole thing!" May 23, 2018 at 18:21
  • 4
    @DougDawson I would not think this is the case. This is similar to a closeout sale saying "you can buy these items for pennies on the dollar" or "cents on the dollar". You would never use plural for the second element because it doesn't make sense (no pun intended). May 23, 2018 at 19:26
  • 1
    @Keeta, that's exactly what I was thinking, actually. "Pennies on dollar" indicates a small fraction whereas "nickels on the dime" indicates a much larger fraction, as Paulie_D noted. Since it only takes two nickels to equal a dime, it seemed reasonable that the character was saying "all", but I see your point. May 23, 2018 at 19:59
  • They're not just common. They're the standard, accepted names for the $0.05 and $0.10 coins. There isn't another name for them, or if there is, it's largely unknown and exceedingly rare to hear.
    – jpmc26
    May 23, 2018 at 23:44
  • 50 cents on the dollar is itself an idiom that means the "dollar" isn't reliable and you may be better off settling for a certain 50 cents. Typically this is in the context of being owed money, and the debtor is a deadbeat May 24, 2018 at 13:31

Just to add to the accepted answer, nickels on the dime is a common expression in parts of North America (I have heard it used in Ontario and BC), indicating that you are getting ripped off in a deal.
For example: "I got a loan, but the bank is taking nickels on the dime"

  • 1
    I've lived a fair bit further south in North America (nowhere further north than the American Southern Midlands area), and have never heard that. I have heard "pennies on the dollar". Are you saying it means roughly the same as that?
    – T.E.D.
    May 23, 2018 at 15:57
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    For what it's worth, I've heard "to be nickel and dimed" (charged for every little thing, i.e. ripped off) but never "nickels on the dime" in my region (QC).
    – Cameron
    May 23, 2018 at 16:27
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    @T.E.D. I have also heard pennies on the dollar, but I've heard it used in the opposite way. I.e. pennies on the dollar is not very much, nickels on the dime is a lot.
    – MannerPots
    May 23, 2018 at 17:07
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    @MannerPots Nickels on the dime is just being ripped off less than pennies on the dollar.
    – Barmar
    May 23, 2018 at 19:58
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    This is far better than the accepted answer, which doesn't even attempt to explain the idiom. May 23, 2018 at 20:03

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