"Brass tacks" (1876) and etymological evidence

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Mon Aug 8 06:49:44 UTC 2005

On Mon, 8 Aug 2005 01:53:57 -0400, Douglas G. Wilson <douglas at NB.NET> wrote:

>My copy of Mathews shows "_To get down to brass tacks, nails_, to get down
>to fundamentals". With "tacks" from 1903, with "nails" from 1911.

And I suppose "brass nails" is rhyming slang for "details"!

Here's a 1902 cite:

1902 _Chicago Tribune_ 21 Dec. 7/1 "When it gets down to brass nails,"
said Secretary Shaw, "we know that the secretary will redeem all money in
gold, but the business men of Europe have no assurance of that."

--Ben Zimmer

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