What does "drop of an opinion" mean in this context:

They were almost as much into talking as they were into protesting. They were ready to take part in an all-night bull-session on the space programme or a teach-in on the ERA or a seminar on possible alternatives to fossil fuels at the drop of an opinion.

Is it kind of idiom? I've tried to look at several dictionaries for entire phrase and for words separately, but didn't find anything relevant. Or maybe, just missed it.

1 Answer 1


This is indeed an idiom. More precisely, it's a corruption of one. It comes from the phrase "drop of a hat":

Bob is always angry. He's willing to start a fight at the drop of a hat.

There's a question at ELU relating to the origin of this phrase. The general opinion is that it comes from the (supposed) Old West practice of an arbitrator dropping a hat to the ground to signal the beginning of a fight.

*How does this relate to the phrase in question? Consider message boards or chat channels. In these communication media, when someone posts something radically opinionated, it tends to start a strongly heated discussion, or even a fight. Someone "dropping an opinion" on the channel, therefore, is someone attempting to instigate.

In the given context, of course, the phrase seems to be used positively, in the same sense as:

Bob is a great guy. He's always willing to help out at the drop of a hat.

"Drop of an opinion" is not standard English, so be aware that use of the phrase could lead to confusion. "Drop of a hat" would be clearly understood by most native English speakers.

**This paragraph is original research*.

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    I agree with everything except the "should be burninated" bit. It's definitely not a usage that a learner should waste effort learning and reproducing (though sooner or later he should probably get at the drop of a hat under his belt, so to speak). But it's creative and perfectly comprehensible use of language for native speakers. Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 21:51
  • @FumbleFingers: Oddly enough, to me it comes across as singularly uncreative. It feels forced. "I wish to express this, but I can't use a cliché because I don't want to sound clichéd, so I'll modify the cliché in order to get across the point that I'm not really clichéd, but I get to score points for using the correct cliché even so!" I'll freely admit that it's probably "get off my lawn" more than anything else. Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 19:28
  • Well, we're certainly not talking "deathless prose"! It's actually an excerpt from Christine (1983) by Stephen King, but I think his directing is better than his prose. Also, things often look worse when put "under the microscope", as here. I just think "burninated" is a bit harsh, is all. Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 20:40

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