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He turned around in his chair and pointed out through the sleazy curtains at a distant hill. On top of the hill was a yellow and white house that shone in the sun. "Hell, that's where he lives. He's got a mess of them. Goldfish, huh? Hell, you could bend me with an eye dropper." That ended my interest in the little man. I gobbled my food, paid off for it and for three quarts of apple brandy at a dollar a quart, shook hands and went back out to the touring car.

What does this "bend me with an eye dropper" mean? Chandler is sometimes crypic. (from "Goldfish" by R. Chandler)

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The eye dropper is used as part of an improvised mechanism to inject drugs, such as heroin, into the vein.

The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English (2009 edn.) refers to the process of tearing the edge of a dollar bill and and wrapping it around the small edge of the dropper, so as to secure the needle to it.

As the eye dropper would be able to contain only a very small quantity of heroin, presumably Chandler is saying that this is sufficient to 'bend', or make the recipient high.

'Hell, you could bend me with an eye dropper' is most probably being used here as an exclamation of surprise, or disbelief.

  • Given the setting of the novel, I imagine the prevailing vice, the one alluded to in this quote, is alcohol ("3 quarts of apple brandy for a dollar a quart"). So the "bent" in this context is likely the same one that's in "to go on a bender" and "get bent!": drunkeness. You could get the guy drunk with only as much booze as would fill an eye dropper. Since he's a heavy drinker and needs to drink a lot to become intoxicated, the phrase carries the same force of incredulity as knock me over with a feather. – Dan Bron Aug 24 '15 at 12:21
  • Hi @DanBron yes, you're right about a bender being a heavy drinking spree. Before posting, I checked in a few online hardboiled slang dictionaries for alcohol/drugs terms, but couldn't find any related to bend/er. I don't know Chandler's books like you do, so I based my answer on what I could glean from the Internet. Apparently, Chandler's fictional detectives used heroin, which is why I opted for that. It's essentially the same premise, though, that a very tiny amount of some intoxicating substance, would be able to have an effect on someone, due to surprise or incredulity:) – Julie Carter Aug 24 '15 at 14:44
  • Yep, agreed. Your answer is spot-on; which particular mind-altering substance the character is addicted to is not particularly relevant! – Dan Bron Aug 24 '15 at 14:45
  • Thanks, @DanBron I'm going to start reading the books, as I think I'll enjoy them – Julie Carter Aug 24 '15 at 14:57
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    Wow! I never would have figured this out. – aparente001 Aug 26 '15 at 1:50

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