I was watching a movie featuring a conversation between two men. This is an attempt at transcribing the conversation:

Man #1: "I'm redistributing wealth. It's quite spiritual. Karma, boy."

I'm not certain which of two things the second man responds with. Here are my two guesses:

Man #2: "I'll get steam on the table."


Man #2: "That'll get steam on the table."

For context, the first man is an armed robber. I'm wondering which of those two sentences was most likely the second man's response, and what it means.

  • 2
    It might be worth saying which movie, and whether it's in English or not. There are often transcripts available for those that can find them and things can often be misheard. Welcome to ELU. – Pam Feb 15 at 17:02
  • The movie is "My Name Is Lenny". And it's in english. The problem is my mother language is not english. In english subtitle its "That'll get steam on the table.". But I hear " I'll get steam on the table." Probably, the second man responds with the second sentence.So what can be meaning of this sentence. The second man responded with that after the first man said "Karma, boy." – A.Ashes Feb 15 at 17:46
  • It's worth pointing out that said movie takes place, supposably, in Britain during the 1960s and 70s. It is also supposable that the dialect would be of a working class, East London variety. This could possibly be an idiom not necessarily known to most English speakers. – bubbleking Feb 15 at 18:03
  • Steam is hot and is used as propulsion in engines, specially since the industrial revolution. Table is where you lay a game, be it either cards or a board game. It is a symbol for life, or the story; the game. The whole phrase means getting things to work, like steam makes machines move. Potentially temperature is also implied. Hot things are active, hard to handle. – mama Feb 15 at 19:23
  • The same phrase appears in a quote of Lawrence of Arabia's actor Petr O'Toole: "I put steam on the table by being an actor. That is how I live. The longer I live, the more expensive it becomes. So I do my work. And I can't be immensely picky. How many beautiful scripts come in one's lifetime? I have had more than anybody, practically." – mama Feb 15 at 19:23

From the Oxford English Dictionary we get:

  1. [ < steam v.] A dish cooked by steaming. colloq.

1900 Soc. Life Brit. Army 98 Apart from soup, the cooking arrangements will only allow of Tommy being given his choice between a bake and a steam. A steam resembles what we have been taught to call Irish stew.

So the phrase "get steam on the table" is likely an upgrade of "put bread on the table": an idiom for earning money. A hot stew with meat would be considered better than simple bread for a working class family.

It’s also worth considering the phrase "steam table" which describes a specific table for keeping things warm. Although the phrase "get steam on the table" is not uncommon.

In context, the robber is getting money through robbery or "wealth redistribution". The other man probably comments "That'll get steam on the table" in reference to the fact that armed robbery will result in money for the robber.

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