"Brass tacks" (1876) and etymological evidence

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Aug 8 16:35:46 UTC 2005

At 2:49 AM -0400 8/8/05, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>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"!

There's also "brass monkey", as in "cold enough to freeze the balls
of a ___", which is of course rhyming slang for "hunky".


>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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