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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 05:26 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.