In the last post I was asked where “drop the hammer” comes from. Turns out, there wasn’t an easy answer floating around already — it took serious digging. Dunno why I was digging for a floating answer, but that’s how these things work out sometimes.
The LDC has texts from 1994 to 2005 from several newspapers; most of my hits were from the New York Times. COCA is a little longer, from 1990 to 2012, and has more variety. It’s 1/5 newspapers, 1/5 academic journals, 1/5 magazines, 1/5 fiction, and 1/5 the real joy, transcripts of spoken language. Since there’s only a few results from these two corpora, they’re marked “LDC” or “COCA” and the year.
The unmarked results are all Google Books. Damn, that thing has a lot of info. I used the BYU corpus framework (by the same folks that made the COCA corpus) to hunt through Google Books too, because it’s so much easier. Even then, I’m sure I missed some results, but I’m thinkin’ I’ve got a good sample at this point. They’re organized by decade-ish. Not perfect sequential order, but the general flow.
I did not include results referring to people dropping hammers in the “whoops!” sense, or the handful of news articles where police where yelling at perps to stand down and drop the hammer (though those were an interesting read). I didn’t include results with a sentence break either (“There was a drop. The hammer went awry”), for the same reason — in none of these does “drop the hammer” have a single, special meaning as a phrase.
Like I mentioned last time, this is me doing amateur lexicography (dictionary-making). Real, real amateur. I got a friggin’ ton of examples together; I put them into groups depending on what “drop the hammer” meant in each context; and then I tried to define that meaning. Which is what lexicographers do, except with even more examples, better understanding of how to craft definitions, and professional experience and resources.
But I ain’t a pro. And if you got a better organization? You seeing a pattern I’m not? Then hey, go for it. Send me what you come up with.
My notes are in [square brackets].
1) Actual, regular hammers, used the regular way (in your hand or on a machine to knock something together or knock something apart)
1841: They drop the hammer upon the anvil; they pass from the clank of the factory, and ask for bread; it is not given…
1858: The object of this arrangement is to lift and drop the hammer without jar, and by very simple means.
1889: …a releasing mechanism for retracting one of said parts from the other in order to drop the hammer.
1883: The main difference between these drivers and those under this office is in the form of friction gearing used to raise and drop the hammer.
1890: …and with the hammer-sustaining device and the operating-treadle connected to and adapted, when depressed, to release said sustaining device and drop the hammer…
1892: We have heard a workman offer to put his watch on top of the pile he was driving, and undertake to drop the hammer so as to touch it without breaking it.
1897: “the act complained of here as being negligent was the giving of the signal to the engineer by Astleford to let the hammer fall before the proper signal had been communicated to Astleford,” and that “unless Astleford carelessly and negligently gave the signal to the engineer to drop the hammer, your verdict must be for defendant.”
1899: …the device may be adjusted to drop the hammer bar at any desired point, substantially as described.
1903: Drop the hammer suddenly on the cup and it breaks.
1908: The upper handles of the tonp’s coming into contact with this bar are mechanically opened apart, and loosen in their turn the lower bits which drop the hammer.
1909: …being so expert with it as to drop the hammer without injuring an object placed in the centre of the block.
1908: To drop the hammer, the hook, seen near the top and to the left, is pressed down and the lower bulb compressed.
1901: Griffith negligently, without plaintiff’s knowledge, and through no neglect or fault of plaintiff, gave the signal to drop the hammer of the pile driver
1908: As it is not practicable to drop the hammer directly on the head of the concrete piles, the driving is accomplished by the use of a special cap, Fig. 62.
1901: Q. Did you give the signal to drop the hammer at that time? A. No. sir.
1901: To the further statement that the usual distance to drop the hammer was at least 30 feet, exception was taken.
1919: YOU drop the hammer, and jump up and down in pain; instead of hitting the nail on the head it had hit the nail of your finger.
1912: Drop the hammer from heights successively increased by a constant quantity until the specimen fails.
1914: To do this, you must drop the hammer according to the softness or hardness of the earth in which you are driving.
1912: Of course, drivers are supplied with various weights of drop hammers and drivermen like to drop the hammer a great height so that the pile head often becomes broomed.
1914: Of course, drop hammers can be carefully handled and piles driven with them without damage, but there is always a temptation to drop the hammer too far.
1922: Place the block on the heavy cast-iron anvil with nail upwards, and drop the hammer on the nail from a carefully marked starting position.
1929: Place the rubber bumper in position and drop the hammer once or twice for practice.
1923: The explanation suggested by the author is based on the assumption that it is impossible to drop the hammer perfectly vertically down the axis of the tube…
1926: Since no clock face is provided on the tower, and the belfry is kept locked up and is exposed to the weather through the open windows, I decided to place in the belfry only the machine required to raise and drop the hammer…
1929: It doesn’t mend a cracked skull to say you didn’t mean to drop the hammer. [This might be of the “whoops that slipped” variety I usually ignored, but could be a regular hammer-hit, too; the context isn’t clear.]
1925: This arrangement made it practicable for the derrick to drop the hammer into position and to cast off, after which the hammer would be set in motion and kept going until it had finished its work.
1927: … special care must be taken to make sure that the binding posts are upright as this gong depends upon gravity action to drop the hammer.
1932: An unwelded piece of rail was placed in the machine on a span of 36″ and the machine operated by hand so as to drop the hammer from a height of 6″ onto the rail at the middle of the span.
1938 [as a descriptive phrase!]: Cracking the pavement can be accomplished by drop the hammer method but this leaves a depression…
1943: You could put the hammer there and it could stay there until Kingdom Come; but if you drop the hammer and apply a force behind it, and it would only just travel a distance of twelve inches.
1942: These rollers are mounted on eccentric shafts and can alternately grip and raise the board or release it to drop the hammer.
1949: Release the main hoist pedal to drop the hammer. As the hammer strikes the pile, set the hoist brake by depressing the main hoist foot pedal.
1943: That is to say the operator was to swing the boom, drop the hammer, slacken the cables, and do the other things according to signals given him by the foreman or supervisor.
1943: Or he could take a watch, lay it on the anvil and drop the hammer just enough to clasp the watch tight and never so much as break the crystal.
1947: The method of test was to drop the hammer from a low height…
1947: … both of which must be depressed to drop the hammer…
1959: Drop the hammer in the tubular frame a distance of 4 in.
1954: Drop the hammer onto the pipe from heights progressively increased by 2 inches.
1950: By alternately tightening and loosening the rope on the cat head the operator could raise and drop the hammer on the pipe and thus drive it into the ground similar to the manner in which a pile is driven.
1953: Again and again Ramsay helped drop the hammer, until the pole was driven about eight feet into the lake bottom and perhaps four feet remained above the surface.
1959: At the completion of the cycle, which requires approximately 7 sec, the pendulum release is energized to drop the hammer.
1960: To elevate, release and drop the hammer…
1978: The test procedure is to cut the sample into four or more 1-IN cubes, place them one at a time in the receiver and drop the hammer from a height of 4 feet.
1973: The mechanism which is used to drop the hammer shall be such as to ensure that the hammer drops squarely, without rotating, into the receptacle in the anvil.
1970: …the operator wraps a rope to lift and drop the hammer by successively tightening and loosening the rope turns around the drum.
1978: Drop the hammer onto the source.
1974: Individual operator preference and technique determines the type of rope used, the number of wraps, and the quickness with which he slacks to drop the hammer — all of which can greatly affect the rope-cathead friction reduction…
1984: The bulb is used to drop the hammer from the top of the tube onto the surface of the test sample.
1989: A hammer drop system which uses mechanical means to lift and drop the hammer. 6.2.3 Cathead.- A spinning sheave or rotating drum around which the operator wraps the rope used to lift and drop the hammer by successively tightening…
1980: DROPPING THE HAMMER RELEASE THE REAR DRUM BRAKE PEDAL TO DROP THE HAMMER. DRIVING THE PILE LIFT THE HAMMER A SHORT DISTANCE AND DROP THE HAMMER.
1982: Plan to drop the hammer the same distance each time.
1986: To obtain N = 1/2, the hammer drop would have to advance the sampler by 24 inches, or one could drop the hammer from only 1/2 its standard height to advance it 12 inches.
1988: Two men raise and drop the hammer on the lower half-die.
1993: This type requires that a crane is available to lilt and drop the hammer safety.
1997: …the operator could disengage the rollers at any time to drop the hammer on the dies with the desired force.
1990: Although one person could collect data, the procedure was much more efficient with two: one to drop the hammer and the second, stationed at the vibration analyzer, to begin the averaging function…
1999 [this one is unusually late to be about a hand-held hammer]: Making changes in your marketing shortly after you’ve put it into action is like starting a new hole each time you drop the hammer; do so, and you’ll never get through to the other side that way.
1998: Adjust the drop height to 1 m as measured between the top of the source positioned on the anvil and the base of the hammer in the release position. Position the source so that it offers its most vulnerable area to the hammer. Drop the hammer …
1998: We got together one night for supper and the conversation went from tilting trailer to open frame like a boat hauler, then on to solid with the use of ramps to drop the hammer…
2007: Raise and drop the hammer at a steady rate of speed.
2007: … a complex valve gear that enabled to operator to raise and drop the hammer piston with a high degree of precision…
2004: Drop the hammer from a height between 1 cm and 5 cm; record the penetration.
2001: The “print” is what you’ll see when you drop the hammer to test the face.
2004: Drop the hammer in the tubular frame a distance …
2002: We did not provide a corresponding ability to drop the hammer …
2003: These systems have a hammer encased in a guide tube with a mechanism to drop the hammer freely.
2a) Actual hammers, in guns
1884 [from Mark Twain!]: …and presently down would drop the hammer, and away would speed the ball.
1889: Those who shoot much, when their second barrel has not been fired, instinctively drop the hammer to half-cock in the action of handing the gun to the loader, and this should never be omitted.
1890: (1) to unstring the bow… (2) to uncock a pistol, gun, rifle; to drop the hammer.
1906: I dared not even tremble lest the vibration should drop the hammer of his gun.
1909: Drop the hammer and away goes the bullet. But let patience pull the trigger.
1914: With the sights aligned on the bottom of the bull, apply a gradual and even squeeze on the trigger until you know that additional pressure will drop the hammer.
1919: l thought l had only two shells in the pistol, and as two had been fired, l thought the pistol was empty, and thought it was necessary to drop the hammer.
1918 [this one could mean “kill”]: But before he could drop the hammer something as sudden as a thunderbolt happened to that aiming arm, and Morrison found himself again sprawling on his back.
1920: … at the same time endeavoring to gradually roll the finger at the joint on contact with the trigger, with the result that I could drop the hammer into the half bent…
1923: A friend of mine uses a .45 S. A. “}£- inch. Monkeyed with the trigger pull till a touch would drop the hammer; in fact it hardly stayed cocked…
1949: “Double action” means normally that a long pull on the trigger alone will turn the cylinder and raise and drop the hammer to fire.
1947: Drop the hammer to forward position again.
1944: …and finally trips the sear to drop the hammer safely against the solid steel bolt.
1953: Pushing the release down first brings a steel block between the hammer and the firing pin and then trips the sear to drop the hammer.
1952: the trigger was released and pulled a third time to complete rotation of the cylinder and drop the hammer.
1954: Pulling the forward trigger revolves the cylinder and then makes contact with the rear trigger to drop the hammer, thus getting around another of Colt’s patents.
1957: In a good many, it is necessary to drop the hammer gently onto the firing pin, restraining it with the thumb.
1955: Once set, it takes but the slightest touch on this front trigger to drop the hammer.
1961: Drop the hammer on the pin and check it for tolerance.
1960: Over and over his slender hand would stab down to the holster thonged to his right leg and whip the Colt upward and drop the hammer on an empty chamber.
1977: “The gun,” the voice said, “drop the hammer and lay it down.”
1980: …follow by backing out the screw in y4-turn increments until rearward trigger movement will just barely drop the hammer every time.
1993: The tumbler then will rotate in a counterclockwise direction under the pressure of the mainspring and drop the hammer to fire the gun.
1998: The P-9, unlike the Walther-type pistols, does not drop the hammer when the thumb safety is depressed.
2004: Point the cocked pistol up, push the hammer drop safety down to its safe position, and drop the hammer.
2004: The safety did not drop the hammer when engaged, it simply blocked the mechanism.
2005: I also like the fact that I am left with the option of never using it, and I probably never will since I prefer to load five and drop the hammer on the empty chamber.
2004: Drop a pencil down the bore, eraser end first, point it up and safety-drop the hammer again.
COCA 2012: Then I crook my finger into a little gun and drop the hammer. “Got you,” Simon says.
2b) Kill with a gun
1972: The guys’ll come splashing down here, Blackman thought, thinking there’s only one or two of ’em out there, and they’ll drop the hammer on them. What to do?
1986: Beginners are recommended to train at least that much per day, for about a week, then 30 minutes a day, until no one can drop the hammer on you!
1989: “Now,” he said testily, “when I tell you to move, Mr. Lightening, you move slow, like ‘lasses in the wintertime, or I drop the hammer…”
198?: But if you are a person who simply wants to get an elk, then drop the hammer on the first legal one you come across.
2002: And I freeze, my mind screaming, Do it, but my finger is stuck, I can’t drop the hammer on this motherfucker, and the pool cue is swinging up from the floor, smashing into my arm, gun flying …
3) An auctioneer’s hammer, but not about the actual hammer, really about finishing the auction, making the sale
1841: Jack likes auctions, and having said it once—twice—three times, we’ll drop the hammer on farther digression.
1843: No sooner did the Major drop the hammer on seventy dollars, than she looked wuth a hundred, she was so pleased at my buyin’ her.
1865: So that, supposing you see an arrangement going on under your nose, you must drop the hammer to the highest bid?—I must if it is once offered.
1892: He was about to drop the hammer when Jack said loud enough for all to hear: ” A thousand guineas for him, and no more.” “Let him have him,” said several voices. The auctioneer did not hesitate long. Down went the hammer…
1922: …which is certainly a good speed considering that the auctioneer has to take the bids, name the buyer, drop the hammer…
1942: Now, I feel like the auctioneer who is just about to drop the hammer. If nobody else wishes to testify it is going, going, gone. The meeting is adjourned.
1969: The auctioneer who does not clearly indicate (a) that he is about to drop the hammer, and (b) that it is in response to a particular person’s bid, generally has only himself to blame when disputes arise.
1969: It is not unknown for the auctioneer to drop the hammer smartly in favour of a friend, and to share the profits of a sale with him.
198?: “So if you we interested, I will drop the hammer at the price of Sh. 1.500, please, be ready”
1989: The customer is nervously waiting for the closer to drop the hammer (ask him to buy) so the customer is defensive and tense, trying to be prepared for anything that might happen.
LDC 2002: They have learned to take care of business, to drop the hammer, to close the deal.
4) A judge’s gavel, but not about the actual hammer, really about making a legally binding decision (that sucks for somebody)
1957: Whatever the Board thought at a particular time was supplemental, they would drop the hammer and that would be supplemental because they said it was supplemental, and you could not litigate it…
1964: Of course he wasn’t going to come right out and say, “Mr. Worrell, I am getting ready to drop the hammer on you because of your speech,” because he would have been tying a noose around himself for legal liability.
1964: I soon got the impression that even the new judge was somewhat hostile to the proceedings and would probably drop the hammer on me, so to speak, at the first opportunity.
1996: “He will give people a chance on probation as opposed to sending them to prison directly. But if your client screws up on probation, he will not hesitate to drop the hammer.”
2003: “You drive around with so much as a burned-out taillight, and he’s ready to drop the hammer on you for good.”
LDC 2005: …white folk who vote Republican in overwhelming numbers… who dropped the hammer on him in the Philadelphia, Miss., courthouse.
5) No physical hammers anywhere to be seen. To do something irrevocable. Early on it can be anything, but more recently it’s gained a clearly negative tone, from enforcing something others don’t like to punishing, firing, lambasting, or killing somebody. Can also be disbanding or attacking organizations.
1959 [paint ad]: Next time, drop the hammer and specify uniform Pentek 8 or Monopentek.
1961: He paused, put his hand on the manager’s shoulder, and said, “Frank, you will get that large-volume store when you learn to drop the hammer.” […] How does one “drop the hammer” and get the best possible performance from his subordinates?
197? [Boy Scout contest]: Drop the hammer, good buddies, because the January contest closes February 5.
1976: Amos didn’t just come to tell them, “God is planning to drop the hammer.”
2007: Each time tempers flared among inmates, Godinez would drop the hammer: twenty-four-hour confinement for everybody.
2009: Then the manager said, “Okay, drop the hammer. Then I don’t want to hear about it again.”
2005: drop the hammer v. [1970s+] (orig. US) to take decisive action (against)
2007 [about God]: He could sneak up on you, and was just as apt to drop the hammer as do a favor.
2009 [intro for Spiderman villain Hammerhead, hard to tell exactly what’s intended beyond a ridiculously dumb pun]: DROP THE HAMMER!
LDC 1997: Nothing happened, so the Warriors dropped the hammer, announcing that half the schedule, 41 games, would be televised…
LDC 2003 [headline]: Travellers drop the hammer on Slade’s Yuletide favorite
LDC 2000: Commissioner David Stern dropped the hammer on Minnesota for reportedly giving Joe Smith an illegal contract…
LDC 1995: …because you go out of your way to accommodate them before you drop the hammer…
LDC 2001: Luis Gonzalez said. “We failed to execute on a lot of plays. We don’t drop the hammer on one guy. We blame all of us when we don’t win.”
LDC 2004: …in the paw of a giant ape until a fleet of “aeroplanes” arrived to drop the hammer.
LDC 1995: …Peter Jennings and numerous other media celebrities who love to drop the hammer on politicians in order to expose greed and hypocrisy.
LDC 1997: …essentially a veto would put regulators on notice that Congress can drop the hammer anytime it chooses.
LDC 1998: According to news reports, she got on the phone and threatened to drop the hammer if she was elected.
LDC 1998: Can it be true that the IRS is going to drop the hammer on as many as 15 referees after the playoffs?
LDC 1998: …July 1, when David Stern will drop the hammer and the nuclear summer will begin.
LDC 1998: …the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is threatening to drop the hammer if they aren’t.
LDC 2000 [repeated in COCA]: …encounter that finally got university president Miles Brand to drop the hammer on Knight.
LDC 2001: They inspire managers with generous profit incentives but drop the hammer on the unproductive.
LDC 2004: Will he be able to drop the hammer when the time comes?
LDC 2004: “…crisis team that comes in from Arkansas and immediately starts to drop the hammer,” said union spokesman Dave Minshall.
LDC 2005: Azinger would love to see someone drop the hammer on violators but fears it might create “an abuse of power.”
LDC 2003: …Luther plans to nail the pope — but will His Holiness drop the hammer on the monk instead?
LDC 1996: Wednesday the red-faced owner dropped the hammer [by firing somebody].
LDC 1997: …promising to make sure the boy’s parents plus his principal dropped the hammer on an eight-year-old stealing food for the most obvious reason…
LDC 1998: Before the NHL muckety mucks dropped the hammer of Thor, proclaiming with a thunderous roar that…
LDC 1994: …showed little reluctance in dropping the hammer on “his” quarterback, SMU starter Ramon Flanigan, during last season…
LDC 1996: Polly was a “sick f—.” Near the end of the interview, Pelton was heard dropping the hammer on his suspect: “What I’m telling you is…”
LDC 2004: …allowed innuendos to float and poison the atmosphere instead of dropping the hammer on Jones…
COCA 2012: WALLACE: Now when you say ” forgive me ” to a Middle East leader, does that mean you are about to drop the hammer? (LAUGHTER)
COCA 2010: …I mean my inclination is try to give this show a chance. […] It would be nice to see this become something more than what people suspect or fear that it’ll become. […] And if not, then we’ll drop the hammer, you know?
COCA 2009: But you got to drop the hammer though. There are folks out there who say no. All crimes are motivated by hate. We shouldn’t have hate crime legislation. We shouldn’t have extra penalties. BS. You know this is a crime that didn’t just impact the people at that museum. It impacted the entire country.
COCA 2007 [dialogue from what looks like a rough movie]: SAM It was time to drop the hammer. RON I thought it was a cleaver? SAM Figuratively speaking. It was time for her to spill her guts.
COCA 2000 [repeated in LDC]: This is also where a 19-year-old received death threats after reporting the nasty encounter that finally got university president Miles Brand to drop the hammer on Knight.
COCA 2010: On Friday, the Securities and Exchange Commission dropped the hammer, charging Goldman Sachs with securities fraud…
COCA 2007: …he is allegedly extorting Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes for a million dollars to protect pictures of their wedding day from 2006. And Tom has dropped the hammer on this guy, went to the FBI, and the FBI picked him up for extortion.
COCA 1994: And now, after that agreement, which he didn’t abide by, we have really dropped the hammer. We have s — we have told him what for.
6a) Probably never an actual hammer, to zoom off suddenly in a car, usually in a race
1963 [Popular Science article on drag racing]: A drag-racing glossary Drop the hammer….Full throttle […] Feather foot……Slow driver
1966: Don’t drop the hammer on her until you get the feel of the wheel.
1968: DROP THE HAMMER-Rapid engagement of clutch at start of drag race.
1964: Or you can feed in a lot of throttle and drop the hammer.
1968 [Auto mag Hot Rod]: DROP THE HAMMER—To rapidly engage the clutch on take-off.
197?: Drop the hammer: Step on the gas.
197?: Burning the rear tire for as long a distance as the rider’s tire-budget will allow is no problem-just grab a handful and drop the hammer.
197?: Drop the Hammer: Engage clutch rapidly at start of race.
2006: 1985 » drop the hammer at the start of a drag race, to release (engage) the clutch in a sudden and forceful move
2007: drop the hammer 1 at the start of a drag race, to release (engage) the clutch in a sudden and forceful move US, 1965 2 to accelerate US, 1976 .
LDC 1996: …with 10 laps to go when his crew radioed to him that it was time to drop the hammer. And that he did, turning a hot lap in excess of 232 miles per hour…
LDC 1997: …with an outside move on Turn 3, came around the front stretch and dropped the hammer when he saw USAC flagman Bryan Howard…
LDC 2005: …estimated crowd of 300,000 people on its feet and cheering when she dropped the hammer on Wheldon and jumped him…
COCA 2002: It’d be just smoking if VW had allowed a manual transmission to be fitted to the W8 engine, but even in automatic-only form, the Passat W8 is more a road king than the 220-horsepower, six-speed A4. Point it straight ahead and drop the hammer. Hasta la vista, baby!
COCA 1995: The truth is, subjected to the roughest going Hunter’s Creek has to offer, both of these trucks proved flat amazing. We dropped the hammer and pushed them to the limits of their suspension travel over trails only a certified half-wit would attempt…
6b) Definitely never an actual hammer, to zoom off suddenly in a non-car race
1995 [skiing]: Said Tucker Woods: “It’s a ski for someone not afraid to drop the hammer. Slower skiers might find it a bit unruly.”
LDC 2000 [footrace]: “He was feeling good at that point, so why not just drop the hammer? Which is exactly what he did.”
LDC 2002 [skating]: …“and then I knew I had to drop the hammer and go for it,” FitzRandolph said.
COCA 2009 [biking]: And as the field nears the Temblor Range and a gradual climb to 1,800 feet that steepens toward the finish, a cagey team could drop the hammer to try to catch out a sleeping rival.
COCA 2007 [biking]: Getting that bike was the best thing I’ve done this whole year, I think. […] I can’t drop the hammer right out of the parking lot, and lately I don’t even want to think about dropping it at all.
6c) Also definitely never an actual hammer, to dramatically beat the other team in non-racing sports
LDC 1996: Williamson, a former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback, predicted he would drop the hammer on Green Bay Packers’ receivers in Super Bowl I.
LDC 1997 [headline]: ROYALS DROP THE HAMMER
LDC 1998: “When it was time to drop the hammer in overtime, you have to drop the hammer… and we didn’t do that[.]”
LDC 1998: Bringing Kevin Brown into the game was an attempt to drop the hammer on the Braves right there.
LDC 2002: …used that veteran know-how to drop the hammer in the end.
LDC 2005 [a pun about a guy they call “The Hammer”]: Williamson was going to drop the Hammer on the Packers. It was a bold claim.
LDC 2005: …to start a fundraising drive [organized by a football team] called Drop the Hammer on Cancer.
LDC 2004: …a hammer drop that refers to the [same] team’s “Drop the Hammer on Cancer” fundraising effort.
LDC 2000: …defending Super Bowl champions, the Vikings dropped the hammer and fled the castle long before the first rays of daylight.
LDC 1994: This time, A&M dropped the hammer, 36-14, in front of 72,577, the largest crowd…
LDC 2000: This time it was Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers who dropped the hammer and left the Blazers befuddled.
LDC 2005: …Hewitt dropped the hammer on Spain’s Feliciano Lopez 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (2).
LDC 1996: …Cirinio expects to get back into the lineup with hopes of dropping the hammer on Rutgers.
COCA 2008: In Game 7 the Celtics dropped the hammer on the Hawks early, building a 44-26 halftime lead on the way to a 99-65 rout.
6d) Definitely not an actual hammer, not really sure what it is, but looks like a specific move. But in football and in golf? If you know, comment and tell me. (If you know and it’s incredibly obvious to you and you can’t believe no one else saw it right away – interested in writing as the Sports Nerd?)
LDC 2003: …you’ve trained properly and done all the little things… dropped the hammer in cold rain, and trained when you didn’t want to on sore muscles…
LDC 1997: …the Gator formula was the same. Pass to grab the lead. Run to drop the hammer.
LDC 1999: The club shot straight up, then Palmer dropped the hammer quickly, only the club face caught too much of the trunk…
COCA 2007: We were watching an NFL game one night at his house, and he got up and assumed the stance of a defensive back, but with his elbow up high, as if ready to drop the hammer.
7) Actual hammers, in cameras
1963: The switch (K) acts to drop the hammer and the shutter of the drum is opened a little later by a time-switch (M).
198?: Working in subdued light, as always, open the shutter, drop the hammer and close the shutter.
8) Actual hammers, in pianos
1908: Yet this is a vital matter, for the piano-action may be so adjusted as to drop the hammer when the key is only slightly depressed…
10) This is the obsolete sense I mentioned last time. For a while, “drop the hammer” meant to stop working with a hammer, either at end of day or on strike or quitting entirely, and gained the metaphoric sense of dropping negativity in general.
1847: …I owe some exposition of the reasons and circumstances which induced me to drop the hammer and to take up the quill…
1904: “Wait, Bunch!” I yelled suddenly; “I’ve got an idea! and it’s a corker!” “Your ideas usually are,” Bunch came back at me. “Drop the hammer and be good,” I admonished.
1906: Drop the hammer — do some rootin’ — Grab a horn, you cuss, and split / Every echo with yer toot in’ — Jump the roost An’ boost A bit!
[This union-pushing song is in every freaking trade journal at the time, down to the New Jersey Dental Journal, clearly showing a reach beyond the average hammer]
1908: A little bit of advice, timely most of the time: Drop the hammer, pick up the saw.
1906: Did he suddenly one day leave the plow in the field, drop the hammer at the anvil, or the pen in the office and adopt the nomadic life of a tramp?
1905: The American mechanic of the future must have science and culture; but, when he takes up the book, he must not drop the hammer.
1917: Drop the hammer. Take up Special Training and strike up $50 or $100 or $200 a week.
1912: But when the boy has grown up and starts out in this world, he should drop the hammer and never stop to look where he dropped it.
1913: Of course his face was covered with blood in a minute, and they called him to drop the hammer and go out for treatment himself.
1916 [about nursing!]: This drop-the-hammer-when-the-whistle-blows attitude is subtly communicated to the patient and jars upon her nerves like a strident saw.
1912: That’s one thing we can’t put off. We can’t yell back ‘Comin’ in a minute,’ ‘r make no egscuse. When the call comes, we got to drop the hammer and go.
1916: This year I have had the satisfaction of being able to drop the hammer; to stop knocking, and to praise, because the work has been done so well that we can say only words of praise.
1917 [a lovely “kids these days” grouse from a century ago]: The old Americanism did not shirk; it did not drop the hammer on the stroke of the clock; it regarded work as an expression of dignity, not the sign of servitude.
1914: Let us drop the hammer and blow the horn.
1919: Bros, drop the hammer and forget your differences and act towards one another with that brotherly feeling.
1913: Drop the hammer; get enlightened, Peace and love will come in time.
1919: For particulars King AI refers us to littlebillthompson, who is now beseechin his townsmen to drop the hammer and get a horn.
1922: Unless the business men of such a town drop the hammer and buy a horn, their doom is sealed.
1924: Be a booster and you will be a winner. Drop the hammer and the grouch, and carry a smile.
1927: And now, Mr. Repairman, drop the hammer and include re-fendering in your line. You will make more money in re-fendering than by pounding out dents.
1925: The neighbors who could be expected to be “boosters” are generally “knockers.” We have often advised them to “drop the hammer and get a horn,” which they could do to advantage.
1921: Herewith is his latest effusion in this line, which indicates that when he gets tired building houses and bridges, he may drop the hammer of construction and wield the pen instead.
1932: For it had taken him no time to come over from Aubrey Street, to enter his house through the back door, to come out again by the front door; not time enough to drop the hammer and spit out the nails.
1936: When the whistle blows some folks drop the hammer in the middle of a swing.
1936: Railroad-transportation employees cannot drop the hammer or the tools like a mechaic. They have to bring the trains into the terminals.
1932: … that they might drop the hammer and the trowel on a minutes notice to take up the sword and shield to defend themselves, their families and their places to worship God.
1943 [preferring screws]: They can be entered more easily and removed also. Bore a hole to start, since the thread doesn’t run up to the head anyway ; and don’t drive ’em. Use nails if you can’t drop the hammer.
1941: … our tendency to be casual, to drop the hammer when the nail needs one more blow, to trust to luck…
1958: The visitor is then instructed to drop the hammer and press his finger against the ball.
1950: Then, as likely as not, he would drop the hammer and begin making those interminable notes of his before a particular point of view should vanish around the corner and be lost forever…
1950: Drop the hammer and pick up the shovel.
1955: …but when the mood was on, I had to drop the hammer or leave the plough, and hurry away to open country or wind-swept beach…
[So you can see, this usage had a heyday in the first half of the 20th century, popularized by that song, and then lost favor. But it’s not entirely dead. In my jobs as a teacher and in various restaurats, I would never tell my buds to “drop the hammer” at quitting time, and neither would most other people I asked. But my brother, who works in industry and therefore is around people holding actual hammers, says that he would feel free to say “hey man, drop the hammer and let’s get out of here” at the end of a shift. And this is supported by one last COCA result:]
COCA 1991: Seven days a week, Jaime Fernandez started pounding nails at 6 a.m. and did not drop the hammer until 11 p.m.
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…but please, no more corpora for a while. Whew.