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My husband says he remembers hearing the phrase "I heard the time drop" in relation to a Grandfather Clock so this would have been used some time around the end of the 1900's I think.

Please help me if you can tell me the way the time was asked in the late 1880's.

  • Chimes were associated with a grandfather clock, so people would say "I heard the clock strike three" and so on. I've never heard about the time "dropping," but I guess it's a possibility. – Robusto Nov 8 '17 at 23:27
  • The verb drop is associated with time in regional dialect, similar to the verb fall. Night can fall and night can drop. It can also be a synonym for strike. So it's possible that it was used in connection with the striking of the hour. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 8 '17 at 23:48
  • With some purely mechanical clocks, powered by weights, a clunking sound can be heard at regular intervals. I don't recall if this happens every 15 minutes, every hour, or some other period. – Davo Nov 9 '17 at 12:36
  • In Britain I have never heard of time dropping, nor night dropping. (And in childhood I spent a lot of time with my grandmother who had been born in 1882.) Though night always "falls", while day "dawns", and pancake day always "falls" on a Tuesday. – WS2 Jan 21 '18 at 15:55
  • By "The late 1900s" do you refer to the first decade of the 20th century? Are you asking about that period or about the 1880s? Do you assume grandfather clocks were only used during these decades? – laugh Mar 2 '18 at 16:10
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This is not a common idiom in modern English.

Grandfather clocks were often powered by weights. As the weights descend they provide the energy to drive the clock mechanism. Sometimes a separate weight was used to provide energy for the chime. The descent of the weights could give rise to a local or dialect expression "I heard the time drop". I've not found any direct evidence for this, but it is possible.

Much of the language we use for time now existed in the 1880s. Digital time was not known, so people would say "Quarter to three" instead of "two forty-five". In the 1880s word like "to-day" were still often hyphenated. Accurate clocks in the home were rarer. In villages most people would depend on the church clock. Only the relatively wealthy could afford a house clock or a watch. Farms would still run to the sun.

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