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Brass tacks, whale-the-synonym, midway

Brass tacks
I learned a new idiom! "getting down to brass tacks" Never having heard it before, I naturally assumed it was an English Englishism, but this page tells me that it was first attested in Texas in 1863.

"getting down to brass tacks"

I use it myself
I know it well.
I have heard it before.
It's unfamiliar.
Brass tacks?

It suddenly struck me last week that "whale" as a synonym for human fatness, along with "blubber", seemed distinctly American to me (as opposed to British). True?

At dinner last week after her BSFA interview, Jo Fletcher wondered what a midway ride was. We settled on a "fair ride" as the closest easy translation.

Then this week, I read Drop Dead, Gorgeous (thanks to impulse library browsing), a large swathe of which takes place at an Iowa State Fair fairground which really does not resemble the original. For example: what main building? And if you had a large fairground designed to host tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people, would you keep it closed 50 weeks a year if you could possibly use it a fair number of other weeks of the year for other events? By the time our main characters have done an incoherent tour of various farflung bits of the grounds, they could have been out of an exit many times over; but they were waiting for "the" exit.

Also, and more relevantly, the well-known really-tall slide is no indication at all that they are on the midway. Because it isn't.


Oct. 4th, 2011 02:49 pm (UTC)
'Midway' is interesting. To me, Midway is a company that made arcade games, and was part of both Bally and Williams at different times. I shudder to think how much money I poured into Midway-branded machines in my youth.

I assume that the name of the company is a reference to midway rides, but what I hadn't realised is that (according to Wikipedia, if you believe it), the word derives from Midway Plaisance in Chicago and the 1893 exposition.
Oct. 4th, 2011 03:05 pm (UTC)
For me, Midway would generally be preceded by 'The Battle of'...
Oct. 4th, 2011 04:41 pm (UTC)
Yup that. As I am not googling, I have absolutely no idea what a "midway ride" is.
Oct. 4th, 2011 05:27 pm (UTC)
I have absolutely no idea what a "midway ride" is

I see I'm going to have to take you to a state fair.
Oct. 4th, 2011 05:30 pm (UTC)
Should I be scared?
Oct. 4th, 2011 05:34 pm (UTC)
It involves tasty food! (Although much of it is deep-fried.)
Oct. 4th, 2011 05:35 pm (UTC)
S'okay, I'm not scared of yummy crunchy greasy stuffs.

Rides, though...
Oct. 4th, 2011 05:41 pm (UTC)
I never do the rides. Except sometimes the big slide.

State fairs differ in exact distribution of what they contain, but they tend to have lots and lots of agriculture-related competitions. And food competitions. And (optionally) art and music competitions. It's a big showcase for random local talent, whether its horseshoe throwing or jame-making or playing the ukelele or who has the largest hog or biggest pumpkin or most accurate cow dog.
Oct. 4th, 2011 08:25 pm (UTC)
State fairs
Would be the equivalent of our "County Show" where (frequently agricultural) local enterprise is displayed. However, our shows rarely include what I would term fairground rides. Maybe motorbike rides, go-carts and steam vehicles, but not dedicated pleasure rides.
Oct. 4th, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC)
They're a lot of fun. And the people watching is superb. Think of it as a cultural experience, especially at the Eastern Idaho State Fair.
Oct. 4th, 2011 05:26 pm (UTC)
It seems to me to be a regional thing in the US. The minute owlfish mentioned it, I knew exactly what she meant. But where I grew up in California, we called them carnival rides -- except the ones at Santa Cruz Boardwalk, which I think were called "rides" and were on the midway. I hadn't heard it as' midway rides' till I moved to the PNW. Where I live now, I think they are also called midway rides, but in practice, the "midway", i.e., the part of the fair that is all about food and booths where you play overpriced and often rigged games to try to win cheap prizes for whining children, is downtown, and there is a second midway at the carnival site, several miles away, where the carnies come and set up their Ferris wheel, roller coaster, zippers, hammers, tilt-a-whirls, etc., and stand around in greasy tank tops and jeans, usually chewing tobacco, taking the tickets and working the controls. It was cooler when they were a mass of levers and pneumatic brakes. Now it's all computers.
Oct. 4th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
My first and only experience of the use of this term for a fair-ground (or perhaps, part of one?) is in a song by Pete Atkin, written by Clive James, called "Beware Of The Beautiful Stranger". This was on an eponymous album in the 1970s. The lyrics are full of references that now have to be explained to young people, such as the gypsy charging a quid and then holding the queen's head up to the light.
Oct. 4th, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Midway
It's only part of a fairground, a dedicated area for rides, content booths (y'know, 3 throws for a currency unit, if you pick up a duck with a number/hit the tin can off the shelf, you win some cheap something), and that kind of thing.
Oct. 10th, 2011 03:32 am (UTC)
Re: Midway
I think I recall a passage in Erik Larson's Devil in the White City, about the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago (... and a serial killer), that claimed that the term "Midway" was coined by the fair's organizers/designers. If you haven't read the book, I recommend it.

Personally, I've never heard anyone say "Midway ride," but I would've known what it meant.