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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 05:13 pm (UTC)
'Brass Tacks' is a phrase my mother used for as long as I can remember, usually in a context where she was addressing some shortcoming of mine ie 'you've got to stop messing about and get down to brass tacks.' I used to take great delight in persistently asking what she meant by 'brass tacks' which used to annoy her no end. I suspect I was quite an annoying teenager...
Oct. 4th, 2011 05:24 pm (UTC)
Have you ever been satisfied as to what brass tacks are? I notice you didn't tick the "Brass tacks?" option. (As, indeed, no one else has either. Perhaps everyone has a very sound understanding of these things these days?)
Oct. 4th, 2011 08:21 pm (UTC)
Brass Tacks
My understanding of the phrase, derived entirely by it's frequent use during my early years, is "going to the effort to study the details". Brass tacks are frequently very small and designed not to be noticed, unless you look at something very closely. I suppose that they are brass so they will not corrode and stain the item with rust, and therefore reveal their location?