"Brass tacks" (1876) and etymological evidence

Jonathon Green slang at ABECEDARY.NET
Sun Aug 7 17:37:00 UTC 2005

>"Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at UMR.EDU> wrote:
>---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>Sender: American Dialect Society
>Poster: "Cohen, Gerald Leonard"
>Subject: Re: "Brass tacks" (1876) and etymological evidence
>Hmmm. Very interesting. "Brass tacks" is supposed to be rhyming slang for "facts"; hence "get down to brass tacks." But then why do the dictionaries say that this expression started in the U.S.? Why not in the speech of Cockneys?
Not _all_ the dictionaries....

Julian Franklyn 'Dict. Rhyming Slang' (1960) 44/1:  brass tacks [...] it
is actually Cockney rhyming slang [...] Of 19 C. origin it had become
naturalized in  America by 1903, many people believe it to have been
imported here from America.

That said, JF wouldn't presumably have known JL's 1895 cite and of
course gives us no clue as to why he chooses '1903' for its
transatlantic migration. Perhaps the OED's 1903 cite from the NY Sun?
(except that this would not appear to have arrived until the 1972


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